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FATED TO MARRY: 






BY 



MRS. MAY A(;NKS FLEMINC 



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AITHOR OK 



"The Secret Sorrow." "Carried by Sttrm." "One Night's Mystery,"' etc. 




TORONTO : 
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY W. G. GIBSON, 



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FATED TO MARRY. 



CHAPTEE I. 



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KEEPING TRYST. 

I pause an instant on the threshold of this story. You will 
call it, perhaps, incredible, impossible. Be it so — however, it is 
true. Twenty years ago its principal incidents were wonderingly 
chronicled in every paper throughout the length and breadth of 
the land. Incredible it sounds — true it is. It is but one more 
proof of the veracity of that hackneyed axiom — ' ' truth is 
stranger than fiction." 

A raw and gusty March day was closing in a rawer and gustier 
twilight. One lurid bar of blood-red streaked the black sky 
where the sun had set wrathfully ; all else was murky, troubled 
darkness. A wailing wind moaned through the gaunt trees, and 
sent the March dust whirling in blinding clouds before it. In 
the ominous sky, in the groaning blast, the coming storm her- 
alded its approach. 

The 5 p. m. train from London came thundering into the dull 
little station of Framlingham. The lamps flared in the number- 
less draughts, and the little wayside station looked so unutter- 
ably dismal and desolate in the eerie gloaming. Half a dozen 
stragglers lounged about, hands deep in their pockets, hats 
drawn far over their eyes, waiting to see the passengers alight. 

There was but one. A tall young man, with a light overcoat 
thrown across his arm, sprang off and walked into the station. 

" All right!" shouted the guard. 

And, with a demoniac shriek., the train was lost in the black- 
ening evening. 

The half-dozen stragglers turned their twelve eyes upon the 
tall young man with an overcoat — a stranger to them, a stranger 
in Framlingham. A handsome and gentlemanly fellow, with 
dark, bright eyes, a black mustache, and a magnificent ring 



FATED TO MARRY. 



Vjlaziiig on his ungloved left hand. It fiaslicd like a great oye of 
fire as he stood under one of tlie gas jets and lit a cigar. 

"Nasty night, sir," suggested the station-master, rather im- 
pressed by the superb stranger. "We shall have it hot and 
heavy before morning." 

The stranger nodded carelessly, blew a fragrant cloud of 
smoke in the face of the nearest straggler, walked to the door,, 
and looked long and earnestly down the road. 

The dull little village — dull nt its best and brightest — was un- 
speakably forlorn and forsaken this black and dismal March 
evening. Not even a stray dog wandered through its one long, 
straggling street. Everybody was shut up behind those lighted 
windows, in square, white dwellings, with the inevitable Vene- 
tian blinds — houses as much alike as peas in a pod. 

The stranger shrugged his shoulders significantly. 

"A gay and festive place, this Framlingham of yours, my 
friend. Existence dragged out here must be a priceless boon. 
There's a hotel, I suppose?" 

" Five of 'em," replied the station-master, triumphantly. 
" The Crown, the Farmers, the Wheatsheaf, tiic " 

" That will do. Which is the best ?" 

" Well, the Crown is the dearest and the neatest — and a 
pretty fair hotel. There it stands, sir, with them benches in 
front of it." 

"Thanks, I'll try it. W^hereabouts does Miss Hardenbrook 
live?" 

"Miss Hardenbrook? Well, you can't see Miss Harden- 
brook's from here ; it's pretty nigh 'tother end of the village. 
Be you a Iriend of Miss Hardenbrook's ?" with a curious stare. 

The young man laughed — a peculiar, short laugh — as he flung 
away his cigar, and invested himself in his overcoat. 

" I don't know about that. If I'm not, however, it's Miss 
Hardenbrook's fault. I'm not at all proud. Good evening to 
you." 

He strode away. The stragglers watched him out of sight. 

" Not proud, ain't you?" said the station-master; "maybe not, 
but you're pretty considerable cheeky. What's he to Miss Har- 
brook, I wcnder? She never has no visitors." 

" One of her handsome niece's beaus, I expect," suggested 
ono. 



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FATED TO MARRY. 



ovo of 



** Miss Hardenbrook's very poorly to-day," another remarked. 
*' She ain't expected t'. live the week out. Mins Isabel will drop 
into a good tliiii*?, when the old girl goes off tlie liooks. She'll 
be the richest and handsomest gal in Lancashire." 

"And this young chap, with the black mustache, and diamond 
ring, comes down beforehand to make sure of his game. A for- 
tune hunter, or a gambler, most likely. They all look like that 
— black mustaches, diamond rings, tall hats, and lots of cheek." 

The young man, thus unflattcringly discussed, reached the 
hotel maantime, secured his room, ordered his supper, and ate it 
with an appetite. His watch pointed to six as he came from the 
table. 

It was quite dark now — moonless and starless ; a bleak, bitter 
night. 

"Pleasant, this," the young man muttered — "an inky sky 
above, an inky earth below. My dear girl will hardly venture 
out in this March toniado ; but, like a true knight, I must brave 
the elements, and be at the place of tryst.'' 

He buttoned up his overcoat, drew his hat far over his eyes, 
and sallied out into tlie gusty darkness. 

There were no street lamps in primitive Framlingham, and the 
lighted windows Avere so obscured by tossing trees, that they 
illuminated his path but little. The path was strange to him, 
too ; but he plunged carelessly forward with an easy trust in 
luck and himself, that was cliaracteristic of the man, humming 
the fag end of an old ballad, 

"Oh, hang it!" as he stumbled over an obstruction. "Miss 
Hardenbrook would lock the door and keep the key, too, if she 
dreamed George Wildair was within a score oi miles of this de- 
lectable, happy village. I hope Issie will keep tryst ; one doesn't 
mind breaking one's shins for the girl of one's heart : bit if the 
girl doesn't come This ought to be tlie spot, I think." 

He was out on the verge of a bleak marsh, just discernible and 
no more. Pollard willows waved and cracked, and a low cluinp 
of furze-bushes dotted it — black spectres, this bad March night, 

" This is the spot, and this is the hour," Mr, George Wildair 
muttered to himself; "and a more desolate spot, and a more 
dismal hour, my adored Isabel couldn't have chosen, if she had 
tried a life-time. .'May the gods that specially watch over fools 
and lovers send her soon, or I shall be found here, t )-morrow 
morning, frozen as stiff as Lot's wife." 



6 



FATED TO MARRY. 



A step sounded on tlie road — baked hard as iron with black 
frost — a quick, H^ht woman's step. 

An instant later, and a slender feniale %ure stood before him, 
dimly outlined against the gloomy night sky. 

•' Isabel." 

He started forward, his arms outstretched. 

" George !'' 

A hysterical cry of delight, and the outstretched arms were 
empty no longer. 

"Dear George — dearest George, how good it is to see you 
again!" she cries in the same hysterical way. "Oh! the last two 
months have seemed like an eternity, never to see you, never to 
hear from you ! And Miss Hardenbrook has been so cross and 
so suspicious ; and Ellen Rossiter has watched me as a cat 
watches a mouse. Oh!" clinging to him with something 
between a laugh and a sob, *' one may even buy gold too dear, 
George." 

" My dear little Issie ! My precious little, ill-used darling ! 80 
you are enduring daily martyrdom for my sake^ Time doesn't 
improve Miss Hardonbrook's temper, I suppose ; but as it doesn't 
improve her liealtli either, there is reason to hope your martyr- 
dom will soon end. How is she ?" 

" Very, very ill, and liable to die at any moni^'nt. Ellen Ros- 
siter hardly leaves her night or day." 

" Ellen Rossiter is the toad-eating, tuft-hunting old maid 
cousin you told me of, who hopes to supplant you in Miss Har- 
denbrook's will?" 

" And who will supplant me, George," the girl said, solemnly, 
"as surely as Aunt Hardenbrook finds out you are here, and 
that we have met." 

" Ikit she must not find it out," Mr. Wildair said, in rather a 
startled tone ; " and she must not kno^v we have met. It would 
be a terrible thing for us, Isabel, if you lost your aunt's for- 
tune.'" 

The girl looked up at him earnestly. But in the darkness the 
expression his face wore could not be seen. 

" You would not love me less, George ?" 

" You foolish child 1 As if any loss in this lower world could 
make me do that." 

" Then why would its loss be terrible ? I should like to be 



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FAtED TO MARRY. 



I 



rich, George ; to live luxuriously, to dress superbly, to have all 
that is beautiful and bright in life around me ; but I could give 
all up and go forth to beggary with you, my beloved, without one 
pang. Nothing in this wide earth could be terrible to me, but 
the. loss of your love, George." 

Mr. Wildair laughed and kissed her. The laugh sounded 
cynical, and the kiss was not at all the rapturous proceeding it 
might have been. 

"A very pretty speech, my dear, and a very flattering one. 

But there is a homely old adage which is as true as truth itself 

to my mind, ' When poverty comes in the door, love flies out 

of the window.' The going forth to beggary sounds nice and 

sentimental in theory ; but when it came to practice, I should 

quietly steal a razor and cut my throat. The story of King 

I Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, as told by Mr. Tennyson, is a 

I very charming story indeed ; and if I were a King Cophetua, 

I and Miss Hardenbrook disinherited you, I should take my dark- 

f eyed beggar-maid, and make her my queen as promptly and as 

* romantically as he did. But, you see, being only a briefless 

barrister, just able to earn the bread and salt of daily life, and 

nothing more, beggar maids arc not practicable. So my pretty 

Issie, if we are to be blest for life before our hair tiu'ns gray, 

I you must become heiress to Miss Hardenbrook's thousands." 

! " Then it is Miss Hardenbrook's fortune you marry, not Isabel 

' Vance ?" 

She spoke in a cold, constraiiiod voice, drawing herself free 
from his encircling arms. 

'* Nonsense, Issie !" he said, impatiently. " You know better 

than that. I'm not a very sentimental young man, and I tell you 

the plain trutli. I love you dearly — I would marry you without 

^ a peiniy to-morrow, if I could, but I can't ; and if the Venus 

I Celestis were to come alive on earth, and ofl'er to become Mrs. 

^ Wildair out of hand, I should have to thank tlie radiant goddess, 

and respectfully decline, unless she brought several thousand 

pounds from Olympus with her. Don't be silly, Isabel, and don't 

I be sentimental ; Miss Hardenbrook will die shortly, and if she 

wasn't an unconscionable old spider she would have died long 

ago ; and when your six months' mourning has expired, we'll be 

maiTied, and live happy forever after." 

He took her in hisjarms again, and kissed the face that, even 



8 



FATED TO MARRY. 



in the j^looni, was dimly beaiitit'ul. But liis words chilled her, 
and his careless caresses could not satisfy her troubled heart. 

'• But, (icor^^e. Oh stop ! lot us look the worst in the face. 
She may disinherit mo —who knows? She is as capricious as the 
wind; she has made iuilf a dozen different wills already ; and 
the will that leaves all to me is not yet signed. It may never be, 
Georjife — and then ?" 

"And then," said Mr. George Wildair, in a hard, resolute 
voice, "we will have crow's feet under our eyes, and our heads 
will be beautifully silvered by the frosts of ^ mie before our honey- 
moon begins." 

"No," cried the girl, as if with a sudden inspiration; "I know 
better than that. When I lose my fortune I lose you— you will 
go and look for another heiress ; you will never grow gray wait- 
ing for me. And I " 

"And you?" the young man said, with a light laugh ; " finish 
your prediction, my pretty Sybil." 

He would hardly have laughed so easily had he seen how her 
face altered in the darkness. Her eyes blazed up, her hands 
clenched, her teeth shut convulsively together. 

" Don't ask me, don't ask me, George ! 1 grow afraid of my- 
self when I think of it. Better for you you had never been born 
than to tamper with what is here !" 

She struck her breast heavily as she spoke, and something in 
her changed voice went with a thrill to his heart. But tlie next 
instant he laughed again, and kissed the pretty, quivering lips. 

" My dear little tragedy-queen ! you vow vengeance like the 
heroine of a high-pressure novel. We won't suppose such horrid 
things, we'll look on the bright side. Isabel Vance will be 
Dorothy Hardenbrook's heiress, and George Wildair's beautiful 
wife. Well, where are you going?" 

" It is striking seven — hear it ? Miss Hardenbrook may miss 
me, and send Ellen Rotsiter in search. If she does, all is lost. 
Oh, George! George!" with a sudden, passionate cry, and clasp- 
ing him in luv arms, " If I lose you I shall die! Let me go — my 
fortune is at stake. I cannot afford to lose my fortune now — 
God help me !" 

her voice, in lier clinging clasp, touched his 
and it was a frivolous heart to the core. 



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FATED TO MARRY. 



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" My dear little fjfirl ! I were the basest villain on earth to 
prove false to yoii. When I do, I i)ray tliat I may die !" 

"Amen !" 

He shuddered as the ominous word passed her lips; lie opened 
his arms and let her j,'o. 

" When shall 1 see yon aj^ain '?" 

'* Not until all is over," she replied, steadily, " I will not risk 
again the fortune you prize so highly, George, as I have risked it 
this night. You will go back to London to-morrow morning." 

" But I may write to you, at least? And you will answer?" 

" No ; my aunt's spy, Ellen Rossiter, would find it out and 
betray us. I am afraid of that woman. I will neither see you, 
nor hear from you, until I go to you* the mistress of Dorothy 
Hardcnbrook's thousands. I will lay them at your feet, George, 
where my heart has been for manv a day. If I win, all is yours. 
But if I lose " 

Her voice died away. George Wildair, with a chill of ominous 
dread, broke tlie spell that followed. 

* ' You will not lose — you v/ill be my queen as you are my 
darling ! Good-by, my own love, until we meet again." 

"Good-by," she said, solemnly. "Good-by, my love, my dar- 
ling ! and may (rod bless you ! Who knows whether I will be 
able to say that when we meet again." 

She Huttered away with the last strange words on her lips — 
fluttered away, and tlie black night swallowed her up. 

George Wildair turned very slowly, and made the best of his 
way back to the hotel, and witli a disagreeable feeling of im- 
pending evil troubling liis usually serene mind. 

" It's an uncommon bad-looking piece of business, George, my 
boy,'* the youn-- Uiwyer soliloquized. " If the old girl turjis up 
trump and does the right tiling by Issie, all will go on well, and 
George Wildair will have a wife and a fortune to be proud of. 
But if she doesn't — Oh ! it's an ugly hitch, and I can't perform 
impossibilities and marry ]\Iiss Vance. And yet she is just the 
sort, too, Isabel Vance, to go and kill herself, or somebody else 
— perhaps botli. She's tremendously in love with me, poor little 
girl ; and it's Mattering but not at all pleasant." 

Before IVIr. Wildair had come to the end of his soliloquy, and 
lit a consolatory cigar, there emerged a figure from behind a 
clump of bushes not two } ards ofi' the spot where the two lovers 



10 



FATED TO MARRY. 



had held their interview ; it was a woman. She liad heard and 
seen all, and her sharp, sallow face was flushed with triumph. 

"At last!" she said to lierself, under her hreath; *'at last, my 
lady, your hour has come ! You dread Ellen Eossiter, do you ? 
Ah ! if you only knew how much reason you have to dread her, 
my proud and handsome young heiress ! We will see what Miss 
Hardenhrook will say to all this ; we will see \v hetlier that un- 
signed will will ever be signed ; we will see what will happen 
when Mr. Wildair jilts his penniless lady-love." 

She hurried uvvay. And the sobbing wind rising and falling, 
and the black spectral trees had the ghostly spot to themselves 
where the lovers kept tryst. 



CHAPTER II. 

"ALL FOR LOVE, AND THE WORLD WELL LOST." 

The night lamp burned low in the sick room and the shadows 
couched like evil things in the dusky corners. A large room, 
" ciirtained, and close, and warm;" a bright fire burning dimly 
on the hearth ; medicine-bottles and glasses strewing the table ; 
the old-fashioned four-post bedstead standing in the centre of the 
Hoor, and old Dorotl^y Hardenhrook lying upon it, never to leave 
it, but for lior cofHn. 

The sick woman was all alone, and wide awake. The glitter- 
ing eyes looked out of a withered, wasted, wrinkled face, like 
glowing coals ; her skinny hands clutched a note containing a 
few lines written in a big, masculine hand. Over and over again, 
with a fierce and wrathful glance, she had read these lines : 

" My l)AKLi\(r : If by any chance you can give your sick dra- 
gon, and her sick attendant Cerberus, tlie slip, give it to tliem 
to-night. I will be at the place you appointed at a little past six. 
1 am dying to see you, and see you I must, despite all the vin- 
dictive, dying old maids in CJn-istendom. 

"Devotedly, G. W." 

The glare in the glittering old eyes that devoured this cold- 
blooded note was something horrible to see. 

" If she does I if she does !'' she panted aloud. " The heartless, 
ungrateful huzzy; a miserable, play-acting pauper, that I took 
from the street and the stage, and fed, and clothed, and cher- 
ished 1 And this is my reward ! She knows I hate this (tcorge 



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FATED TO MARRY. 



II 



g 



Wildair and all bis race — faitliless and false, and corrupt to the 
core of their black, bad hearts, one and all. She knows it; and 
if she meet him to-night — if she meets him " 

She stopped, and trembled with suppressed rage from head to. 
foot. The room and the house were very, very still. Outside, the 
wind sobbed and shuddered, and the bare wintry trees rattled like 
dead bones ; inside, the loud ticking of the clock, the monoton- 
ous dropping of lurid cinders, the sleepy pun'ing of a big Maltese 
cat, made a dull, drowsy chorus of their own. 

The clock struck eight. As its last beat died away the cham- 
ber door opened, and Ellen Koesiter walked into the room. 

Miss Hardenbrook raised herself on her elbow by a supreme 
effort, and looked with wild, eager eyes into the face of her spy. 
She was a little, wiry body, this Ellen Rossiter — a female terrier, 
with lips thin as ^'nife-blades, and pale steel-blue eyes ; like the 
sick woman herself, a soured, and sullen, and disappointed, cross 
old maid. 

" Well?'' Miss Hardenbrook asked, with a fierce clutch at her 
bedclothes. " Don't stand staring at me there, Ellen Rossiter, 
like a fool, but speak out. Was tlie note true — was it from him? 
Was she there?" 

She made the reply with cold deliberation, removing her things 
and folding them up. 

'* I was at the place before her. I knew it well — she often met 
him there before. I hid behind the bushes and waited. He came 
first, singing and talking to himself, like the idiot that he is. 
She did not keep him waiting long ; she came all in a hurry, and 
plunged into his arms, kissing liim, calling him her love and her 
darling, in a manner tliat was perfectly sickening and disgusting. 
I saw it all, and lieard every word they said." 

"What did they say?" 

Ellen Rossiter compressed her thin lips until her mouth was 
only a pale str(>ak across her face. 

" You had bc^tter not ask me — you won't like it." 

" Tell me, I command you !" Miss Hardenbrook passionately 
cried. " Tell me, for I will know; tell me, for I have a perfect 
right to know !" 

'* Very well." 

She sat down by the bedside, her hands folded in her lap, her 
steel-blue eyes looking stolidly into the burning black eyes of the 



■'*; 



12 



FATED TO MARRY. 



sick woman; and then, word for word, with diabolical precision, 
repeated the whole conversation of the lovers. 

])orothy Hardenbrook covered her face with both hands, with 
a convulsive sob. 

"And I loved this girl," she cried. "Oh, my God! hotter 
than I ever loved Thee !" 

"Not more than she loves your money. She will wait six 
months after you are dead, and then Mr. Wildair will take pos- 
session of it and her, and scatter it to the four winds of heaven." 

" Never!" The hands dropped, and the eyes blazed. " Never, 
Ellon Rossiter — never, never ! Thank Heaven, it is not too late ! 
Give me that box." 

Slie took a key from under her pillow. Ellen handed her a 
square iron box, which she knew contained two unsigned wills. 
Miss Hardenbrook opened the box. took out one of the wills, read 
it slowly through, and tore it into atoms. 

" So perish the hopes of George Wildair and Isabel Vance ! 
So are ingratitude and falsehood punished ! Send for Mr. Benson, 
and ca^' Susan." 

Mr. Benson was her lawyer, Susan was her cook. Ellen Ros- 
siter disappeared, and returned in half an hour with both. The 
second will was spread out before Miss Hardenbrook ; her face 
had grown hard and rigid as iron. 

" I am going to sign my will, Mr. Benson," she said ; " the 
otlior I have destroyed. I have sent for you two to witness the 
proceeding." 

She took a pen, and signed tlic will with a hrm, unfaltering 
hand. The otlier two affixed tlieir signatures. Then, witli the 
same rigid composure, she locked up the document, and handed 
tlic I'oy to tlie lawyer. 

" You will keep tliis, my friend. The day I am buried, you 
will read the will aloud, in tliis room, to tliose that attend my 
fmieral. Now leave me — I am tired and wish to sleep." 

Slie turned away her face to the wall. The lawyer and Susan 
en pt away on tiptoe. Ellen Rossiter lingered an instant, with 
an anxious look on her face. 

" The doctor said she was liaV>le to die at any moment ; that 
any excitement would be fatal — and surely slie has had excite- 
ment to-night." 

Miss Rossiter did not retire ; she descended to the parlor, and 



pa( 
Btill 
soil 
^fell 



shj 

th^ 
TIJ 
mi 
bel 



f 






I 



FATED TO MARRY. 



lU 



Jcision, 

«, with 

better 



I 



paced up and down. Ten, eleven, twelve struck. How awfully 
Btill the house was in its midnight hush ! how awfully clamorous 
sounded the storm without ! The wind had risen, and the rain 
fell - wind and rain wailed and sobbed, like cries of mutual 
agony. 

"A fearful night!" the lone watcher said, with a shudder; 
" and she is afraid of night and tempest. I will go and see how 
she sleeps, Susan I" 

She shook and roused the sleepy cook — she was afraid to enter 
the room alone. Together they ascended, together they entered, 
Tlie air of the room struck cold upon them. The raging of the 
midniglit tempest sounded appallingly loud up there. On the 
bed the sick woman lay, as tliey had left — she had never moved. 

" Sleeping still," the cook said in a low wliisper. 

Ellen liossiter crossed the room and bent over her a second, 
jind she recoiled with a loud cry. 

Yes, sleeping still ; but the everlasting sleep. Miss Harden- 
brook lay before them cold and dead. 

It was a very long procession that wended its way from the 
prim, white mansion, following Dorothy Hardenbrook to her last 
home. 

A miserable ^larch day ; the rain falling ceaselessly ; the wind 
sobbing ; the sky a leaden pall ; the earth black and sodden. A 
bad, bitter day ; and the funeral-train shivered in their wraps 
and splashed forlornly through the mire of the wretched country 
roads. 

The dull afternoon was half over ere the grave was closed and 
the gloomy procession back in the old-fashioned mansion, 
(ihastly loolved tlie rooms, hung in the sombre trappings of tlie 
grave ; deadly was tlie chill and the silence that prevaded it, in 
the dismal light of the wet afternoon. 

Tlie staid parlor, never used but on state occasions, was almost 
filled with curious, expectant listeners. With a flush very foreign 
to her usual sallow complexion, hoi in her face, with a glittering 
light rarely seen in the dull, steel-blue eyes, Ellen Possiter 
folded her hands to listen to the reading of the will. The hour 
of her triumph had come — the hour for which she had watched, 
and waited, and played the spy. She, and not that tall, impe- 
rious young woman, who had queened it so long, would be heir- 
ess to Dorothy Hardenbrook's thousands. 



li 



14 



FATED TO MARRY. 



Miss Vance, looking very handsome and stately in trailing 
crape and sables, sat by the window, gazing steadfastly out at the 
ceaseless rain. She was deathly white, and the hands lying in 
her lap, were convulsively locked together. A sickening pre- 
sentment of what was to come filled her heart and soul ; the 
flashing fire in Ellen Kossiter's triumphant eyes ; the pitying 
glances of Benson, the lawyer, had gone thrilling with an awful 
fear to her heart. Slie had staked all that life held of bliss, 
love, and hope, and happiness, on one throw of the dice, and 
she had lost. She knew it as surely sitting there, staring blankly 
out at the wretched rain, as she knew it an hour after. 

Mr. Benson slowly unlocked the box, drew forth the will, and 
began to read. Dead silence reigned. The document was brief 
and to the point. There was a legacy to Susan Turner, the cook, 
of one hundred pounds ; two hundred to Mr. Benson, to buy a 
mourning ring ; and two hundred to Ellen Rossiter, in return for 
her secret services faithfully rendered. 

There was a shrill cry. Ellen Rossiter rose, wildly excited, 
from her seat. 

•' There is some awful mistake ! There must be a mistake ; 
Miss Hardenbrook never would insult me like that ! Mr. Benson, 
you have read the wrong name." 

'* I have done nothing of the sort. Miss Rossiter — be good 
enougli not to interrupt. The remainder of her property, 
landed and personal, amounting in all to forty thousand pounds, 
^liss Hardenbrook has bequeatlied, absolutely and without con- 
dition, to" — a breathless pause — " to her third cousin, Miss Amy 
Hardenbrook Earle, of London." 

There was a simultaneous exclamation from every one present, 
a gasping cry of rage and despair from Ellen Rossiter, and all 
eyes turned upon the stately figure by the window. But Miss 
Vance sat like a stone, the face white and rigi.l, the dark eyes 
staving straight before her with an awful, fixed, blind stare. 

]\Ir. Benson folded up the will, relocked the box, and prepared 
to depart. The short, stoimy March day was already darkening 
fast, and every one rose to follow his example, and spread the 
astounding news through Framlinghain, Isabel Vance disin- 
herited, not even named in the will ; and an unknown young 
lady, in London, left sole heiress of Miss Hardenbrook's wealth ! 
Framlingham had not receiyed so astounding a shock for ages. 



proji 
face I 
— fri 
Elle| 
spit( 
tear! 
dunj 
she 
risk] 
woul 
Tl 



FATED TO MARRY. 



15 



trailing 
it at the 
ying ill 
ig pre- 
ul; the 
pitying 

awful 

f Wiss, 

e, and 

)lankly 

11, and 
s brief 

e cook, 
buy a 

urn for 

icited, 

take ; 
in son, 

good 
perty, 
iinds, 

con- 
Amy 

)sent, 
d all 
Miss 
eyes 

•ared 
ning 
the 
isin- 
)ung 
1th! 



And the figure by the window was lift alone. No one had ap- 
proached her ; no one had spoken to her ; there was that in her 
face that held them off. One by one they dropped silently away 
— friends who were sorrv for her, enemies who exulted over her. 
Ellen Kossiter rushed up to her own room, and was crying her 
spiteful, disappointed heart out in a passion or bitter, raging 
tears. But Isabel Vance shed no tears, uttered no cry ; her 
dumb despair was far too deep for that. With the loss of wealth 
she had lost all — love, life. For George Wildair's sake she had 
risked the glory of the world ; for his sake she had lost, and he 
would be the very first to turn from her in her downfall. 

The rainy twilight fell. The night wind, salt from the sea, 
rose and beat the rain clamorously against the glass. Isabel 
stood up, her face looking awfully corpse -like in the desolate 
gloaming, and with a steady step walked out of the room and out 
of the house. 

She went straight to the village — to the Crown Hotel. Rain 
and wind tore at her and bufi'eted her ; but she heeded them no 
more than if she had been made of wood or stone. The proprie- 
tor of the hotel, standing in his own door- way, looking out at 
the stormy evening, recoiled with a blank stare at the sight of 
her, as he might at seeing an apparition. 

"Is Mr. Wildairin?" 

That voice, hollow and strange, was not the melodious voice of 
Isabel Vance. The man's face softened into a gaze of unspeak- 
able pity. 

" Yes, Miss Vance ; this way, il* you please." 

He ushered her up stairs, and into the private parlor, sacred 
to Mr. Wildair's learned leisure. 

" ]Miss Vance, sir," he said, and disappeared. 

Mr. Cieoi'ge Wildair, seated before the window, his chair tipped 
back, his boots on the sill, a cigar in his mouth, and his eyes 
fixed moodily on the darkening prospect, got up with a spring. 
He flung away his cigar, and came forward with a face that was 
anything but the radiant face of a lover. 

'* You here, Isabel ! This is an astonisher ! Y'ou surely have 
not walked all the way in this pouring rain !" 

She glanced down at her drenched garments, as if conscious 
for the first time of the wet. 



"I do not know — it does not matter! I wanted to 
before you left." 



see you 



'^ 



u> 



FATED TO MARRY. 



"*! 






f! M 



"Who told you 1 wms goiii^' to leave! Sit down, pray, while 
I light the gas." 

" We need no light for what we have to say. Thanks, I will 
not be seated. I only come to say good-l)y." 

*' You need not have come throng) i this pouring rain to-night 
for that," Mr. W'ildair remarked rather sulkily. •' You did not 
suppose I was going to leave Framlingham without calling to see 
vou, Isabel?" 

" I did. You would not have come, Cleorge." 

" Thanks for your good opinion. Miss Vance. Think so by all 
means, if it suits vou." 

" You never would have come, Cleorge," she repeated, steadily. 
" It was ]\liss Hardenbrook's heiress you courted --and I am not 
that/' 

"Confound the cantankerous old cat!" burst forth Mr. Wil- 
dair, furiously. " Why the duse did she disinherit you, Isabel?" 

" Do you need to ask ? l^ecause I met you that night." 

" Who told her ?" 

" Ellen Rossiter, 1 presume. Don't talk of that — it is too late 
now. I liave lost all you care for ; there is nothing left for us 
but to shake hands and part forever." 

" Not forever, I hope." But the voice in which he said it, was 
a very hesitating one. "Don't tliink me altogether heartless, 
Isabel. I wanted Miss Hardenbrook's money, I don't deny ; 
but I loved you as well. I would marry you to-morrow, if I 
could ; but I can't. I am a poor fellow, as you know, living 
from hand to mouth. I cannot afford the luxury of a penniless 
wife." 

" I know it." The voice liad fallen to a dull calm without one 
trace of emotion. " Y^ou cannot afford to marrv me now, and 
you never can. Y'ou have deceived me from first to last. There 
is nothing left but to say farewell, and go our different ways 
through life." 

The unnatural calm deceived him. He had expected tears, 
reproaches, hysterics, a stormy and passionate scene. His face 
Hushed, and he drew a long breath of relief. 

" I have no wish to say farewell forever, Isabel," he said, 
gently, " but you have and you know best. It would be selfish 
in me, I dare say, to keep you bound by an engagement that 
cannot be fulfilled for half a life-time. I love you, but I will not 



)e sc 

)itte| 

hei 

i,nd 

iiardl 

f »^ 

.pelfc 

!tegai 

aiessl 

^ark| 

-eartl 

tonol 



\V 



FATED TO MARRY. 



K 



le selfish. I release you, Isabel, though heaven knows how 
►itter it is to say those words. I set you free, Isabel ; and when 
hear you are married to a better and a richer man, I will try 
ind rejoice for your sake. It is destiny, I suppose, but it is very 
^ard."' 

:j He turned hastily away to the window, and for the instant, the 
pelf-deceiver believed he felt what he said. The young girl stood 
Jregarding him with a fixed, steady glance, reading all his false- 
3ness and baseness, yet loving him despite it all. The fi-iendly 
darkness hid from him the gleaming light in her eyes, the un- 
earthly expression of her face. He only heard that low, mono- 
tonous voice and that deceived him. 

"And you, George," she said, after a little pause, "^ou will 
woo and wed another heiress, I suppose ? This Miss Amy 
Earle, for instance. She is young and pretty, no doubt; if not, 
wliat does it signify, since she inherits Miss Hardenbrook's for 
tune ? There will be a Mrs. George Wildair, will there not, be- 
fore this year ends ?" 

Mr. Wildair wheeled round from the window% wrapped in his 
dignity as in a mantle. 

" You might have spared me that taunt, Miss Vance. I am 
not altogether the mercenary wretch you take me to be. But we 
will not recriminate — we'll part friends." 

" Yes, wo will part friends." 

Her voice rose, lier eyes flashed. But she held out her hand 
iind looked liim steadily in the f^ ce. 

"We will part frieuds. Farewell, (ieorge Wildair. You have 
deceived me more cruelly than man ever deceived woman before. 
You Imve hligJited my life, you have broken my heart ; but as 
you say, lot us part friends. Farewell, George — but not forever. 
IVe shall meet o?icc uwref^ 

Slie wrung his hand, dropped it suddenly, turned, and was 
gone like a tlasli — lost in the black, wot night ; and Mr. Wildair 
was left alone staring aghast. 

"J)usod odd!" ho muttered, at last, recovering from his 
stupor. " Has the loss of her fortune and the loss of her lover 
turned hor brani ? 'We shall meet once more,' shall we'? I 
hope not. Did she mean that as a threat, I wonder. '? By Jove ! 
Ill keep out of your way, Miss \'anco, for tlio roni.iinder of my 
mortal span, if I can." 



18 



FATED TO MARRY. 



Ui' 









Hi 









Through darkness, through falling rain, through driving rain, 
Isabel Vance hurried home. " For the last time," slie said, be- 
tween her locked teeth. " My old life ends to-night, my new 
life dawns to-morrow. Isabel Vance is dead and buried; a lierce 
and pitiless avenger shall rise in her place. From this hour, let 
all who have wronged me beware !'^ 

She reached the house soaked to the skin. She ascended to 
her own room, but not to change her saturated garments. De- 
liberately she set to work. She drew forth her trunks, collected 
her clothes and valuables, packed them rapidly, wrote her ii'ame 
and address on cards, and tacked them securely on. Then she 
sat down by the table, dropped her head on her folded arms, 
and lay there as though she never cared to lift it again. 

All night long she never moved. The rain beat and the wind 
blew; but the storm in her burning brain and bitter heart, raged 
more fiercely still. Morning came, and with the first pale glim- 
mer of the new day she lifted her head, and showed a face so 
haggard and worn, eyes so wild and unearthly, that every trace 
of her bright beauty was gone. 

Two hours later, Miss Eossiter, descending to breakfast, found 
Isabel despatching her ti*unks to the station, and she herself, in 
travelling array, waiting to follow. The haggard face and hol- 
low eyes made Ellen Rossiter recoil with a cry of dismay. 

" (ioing !" she exclaimed. " So soon !" 

" The sooner tlie better. Good-by, Miss Rossiter. If ever it 
is in my powder to repay the many good turns you have done me, 
believe me, I shall repay you with interest." 

She turned and walked out of the house. 

Ellen Rossiter looked out after her with a shudder. 

' ' And if ever the arch-demon himself looked out of two human 
eyes," said Miss Rossiter, in a violent tremor, *'he looked out of 
Isabel Vance's just now. That girl has some awful deed in her 
mind, or I'm no judge of faces." 



Jwa) 
3r t 
Was 
|nd 
sea. 



frow 
drud 
y^nd 
|put, 
|liope 
I old J 
|diffe 
I high 
all 
now 
H 
his 1 
to tl 



\ 



CHAPTER III. 



MISS AMY E ABLE. 






The July day had been intensely warm. All day long the 
London pavements had baked and blistered under the sun. Noise 
and war, rush and rattle over stony streets, under that blazing 



long 

man 

plen 

excl 

bam 

ter, 

wav 

Isal 

pasi 

app 
swa 
dre] 
her 
cru 
nig 



FATED TO MARRY. 



11) 



111^ ram, 
said, bc- 
niy new 
; a lierce 
honr, let 

ended to 
ts. l)e- 
collected 
ler name 
["hen she 
ed arms, 

the wind 
rt, raged 
lie glim- 
ii face so 
3ry trace 

■5t, found 
'rself, in 
and liol- 

y. 

■ ever it 
one me. 



human 

L out of 

1 in her 



mg the 
Noise 
blazing 



[y, since eirly morning, imtil one's head throbbed, and eyca 
§nd ears ached from uproar and glare. 

i As the temple clock pointed to five, George Wildair pushed 
l^way his chair from the table, where he had sat busily writing 
ibr the past three hours, and rose up with an impatient oath. It 
%as in dingy little chambers where the young lawyer sat alone, 
Iknd the ceaseless turmoil without was like the roar of the angry 

tea. 

? ''Confound the luck !" growled George Wildair, with a savage 
|rown. "Is this infernal treadmill life to go on forever ? Drudge, 
flrudge, slave, slave! Better to be born a blackamoor, bought 
and sold at once ! Fi-nm morning till night, week in and week 
out, the same horrible slavery for daily bread and salt, and all 
hope of the unendurable drudgery ending soon lost now. If that 
old spiteful cat had only made Isabel Vance her heiress, how 
different all might be. Life in that dazzling fairy-land, whose 
Jiighways are all paved'with gold, a handsome and stately wife, 
all the glorv of the world might be mine. And now — and 



now- 



He looked round his dingy little den, with a wrathful glare on 
Ills handsome face, and flung the parchment in his hand fiercely 
to the other end of the room. 

"I was never born for this life, and I'll not endure it much 
longer! Who is that who says, 'All things are possible to the 
man who believes in himself ?' There should be rich w^omen in 
plenty, in these days of money-making and speculatmg, ready to 
exchange their yellow treasure for a young and handsome hus- 
band. Old or young, handsome or hideous, what does it mat- 
ter, so that there is enough gold to gild the ugliness. By the 
way," he broke ofit', suddenly, "I wonder w^hat became of poor 
Isabel !" 

He walked to tlie grimy window, and gazed out moodily at the 
■& passers-by. 

'M "No one has seen her ; no one has heard of her ; she has dis- 

1 appeared as completely as though the earth had opened and 

J swallowed her up. Poor Isa I 1 acted like a cold-blooded scoun- 

i drel to her, I dare say ; and yet I don't know. I couldn't marry 

her ; it was simply impossible. Bachelor pauperism, w^ith a dry 

crust to-day in a dingy restaurant, and 2^ petit soiiper to-morrow 

night at the Albion or the Criterion, is a very different thing 



20 



FATED TO MARRY. 



(( 



from inatriiiioiiial pauperism, with a sickly wife and crying chil- 
dren, and the cut direct from one's friends in Bohemia. No, no ! 
It was better for Isabel, better for myself, to act as I did. No- 
thing but weary waiting could have come of continuing the en 
gagement ; nothing but misery from a marriage. And yet, 
Heaven knows, I loved that girl !'' 

Mr. Wildair put on his hat and coat, closed his door and 
walked out. He walked moodily along the crowded street for 
some way, then sprang into a passing 'bus, and rode up to Hyd« 
Park. He was in the habit of going there evenings to kill tima 
and smoke a dreamy cigar among the trees. 
^ This bright July afternoon the drives and walks were crowded. 
Brilliant equipages flashed by, filled with fair faces ; dashing 
equestrians pranced gayly after ; well dressed men and women 
rambled through the cool paths, and loiterers reclined on the 
benches. Over all a sky of cloudless blue shone, and in the west 
the sun was setting in a gorgeous flame* of splendor, 

George Wildair leaned against a tree, smoking his cigar, and 
looking with lazy eyes at that splendid sunset. He was contrast- "^ou 
ing his own hard fate, bitterly and curiously, with that of those torn: 
fortunate people in the gay carriages that rolled by, when a voice ior t 
startled him out of his discontented reverie. | ^^^ 

" Don't tell me that tliis is George Inglis Wildair, growing so f ^ 
big, and so brown, and so bearded, and all in ten years 1 Don't J " sw^iJ 
tell me so ; because I used to know him when a great awkward ' 
hobbledehoy — and it isn't posRil)le, you knoAV I" 

The voice was girlish and silvery, and the laugh which fol- 
lowed was sweet as a peal of musical bells. Mr. Wildair wheeled 
round, and stood staring blankly at tlie pretty speaker. 

She sat in the daintiest of little phaetons, that was drawn by 
two spirited, cream-white horses. She looked the prettiest of 
fair-haired fairies in her bewitching carriage-costume. The blue 
eyes sparkled like stars, a*nd enchanting dimples chased one 
another over the rosy, laughing face. By her side sat an elderly 
lady, as upright, and stiff, and prim as the virtue of Prudence 
embodied. 

'' He doesn't know nie :"* cried the little speaker with a second 
musical laugh. '' See how he stares ! I declare, if the horrid 
creature has not gone and forgotten me, in ten years, as com- 
pletely, as though I had never existed. And we used to be so !■ o^ 





FATED TO MARRY. 



21 



tiinate — Damon and whats-his-name, and all that — brothers- 
•ying chil- fc-amis, yon know, Mrs. Sterling." 

No, no! i And tlien, like a Hash, it all dawned upon George Wildair. 
did. No- flen years ago — a little wax doll of a girl, with china-blue eyes, 
ig the en |^d tomboyish ways — six years younger than himself, and his 
And yet, ibt, &ndprote^^ee, and next door neighbor. 

5 " Miss Amy Earle, surely I" he said, doffing his hat and com- 
door and jpg up to clie pony-carriage. "Can I believe my eyes? How 
street for ^upid of nie not to recognize you at once ; for, except that you 



3 to Hyd« 
> kill time 

crowded. 

dashing 
id women 
>d on the 

the west 

igar, and 

contrast- 

of those 

HI a voice 

mowing so 
I Don't 
awkward 

hich fol- 
• wheeled 

Irawn by 
9ttiest of 
The blue 
ised one 
11 elderly 
^rudence 

a second , 

e horrid 

as com- 

to be so 



ve grown taller, you are exactly th« same as of old. This is a 
lightful surprise ; I should as soon have thought of seeing the 
mpress Eugenie in the park " 

Miss Earle laughed once more. She had glittering white 
eeth, and an exquisitely musical laugh, and evidently made the 
ost of them both. 

" I have been in London a month ; and I have been looking 
tor you ever since, and asking for you, but no one seemed to 
now anything about the matter. I thought you had got mar- 
ried, or turned Diogenes, and lived in a tub. Let me present 
iyou to Mrs. Sterling, my friend and chaperon, who has been 
/tormented with me for the past three years, and is likely to be 
for three times three to come. My old friend and playmate, Mr. 
George Wildair, dear Mrs. Sterling." 

Mrs. Sterling bowed stiffly, not relaxing into the faintest 
smile. But Mr. Wildair was not to be rebuffed. 

*' The name is a very familiar one. I knew a John Sterling 
once ; he was my most intimate friend at college. He became a 
doctor and settled down in the country somewhere. Perhaps 
you know him ?" 

The frigid face of the older lady brightened at once. 

"John Sterling is my son," she said — "my only son. Now 
that you recall it, 1 do remember his speaking of you very often. 
I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir. My son's friends are 
always mine*" 

" How nice !" cried Miss Earle, with sparkling effusion. "It's 
exactly like a play, where everybody turns out to be the brother, 
or wife, or father of everybody else ! Won't you take a seat, 
George ? Oh ! I beg pardon , I suppose I must say Mr. Wildair, 
now." 

" If you do, I will never forgive yon ! Think it is the old days 
over again, and permit me to call you Amy." 



mi 



'Mil 






FATED TO iMARHY 

l>o Imd a fortime loft mo 1 l " " L Wf.«"me on busincss-! 
„; fa V.^' t^:K^^^^^^^ -" t,.,.a v., p.,., 

" That f mo..e-tha„ r ^v ^L'' h''' '"''''."' °*' »"--« -upzise 
"^'es; a Miss \'anet^ ^u 



FATED TO MARRY. 



n 



[^•"^' poll icy 

se," he re- 
nauently?" 

"only here 
business — ^ 
"mberltuid 

ilo. 

iioin Miss 

liHt Jjappi. 

li' I had 

^1' «- paler 

now Miss 

snrjjrise. 
new her, 
I she left 

surprise, 
ind, was 
Harden - 

-hardly 
make 
ogetiier 
elative, 
it to it 



st mo- 

e Jias 

^vhere- 

but I 

'ellow 




•* Can yon ask ? She had a much better right to this money 

lan I. She was u .loarer relative ; she iiad lived with Miss Har- 

enbrook for years, and had been brought up to expect it all at 

er death. If Miss flardenbrook chose to be unjust and whim- 

fical at the last moment, that does not alter my obligation. John 

Sterling told me my duty plainly ; he said I should be wrong, 

iind cruel, and unjust, not to share with her — to give her half. I 

^ ould, too, if I could tind her." 

** John Sterling was always a trifle Quixotic," said George, 
%ith his cynical laugh. " Very few people inheriting this for- 
tune, would take this view of the case. However, it does you 
honor, Miss Earle." 

" My son is not Quixotic, Mr. Wildair," said Mrs. Sterling, 
with cold asperity, " He is the most noble and high-minded of 
'^ men." 

Mr. Wildair bowod with his most cynical smile. 

" Not a doubt of it," he thought. '* It is so easy to be mag- 
nanimous and noble wliere otlier people's money is concerned." 
But, aloud, lie blandly said: "Your pardon, madam — /should 
know that. Ihit, in these days of selfishness, that kind of thing 
is very apt to bo mistaken, by a very unapprcciativc world, for 
the wildest sort of (Quixotism. And so you have failed in your 
search. Miss Karle, for this disinherited damsel — Miss, how do 
you call her ?" 

'• Miss Isabel \'ance ; and so very han.lsome a damsel, Mr, 
George Wildair, tliat I don't think you would forget the name so 
easily if you saw her once. She was an actress before Miss 
Hardenbrook adopted her. Most probably she has returned to 
her old profession. It is odd she is not to be found ; perhaps she 
has ciianged her name ; but I dare say she will turn up promis- 
cuously some day, as you did this afternoon. I searched for you, 
you know, and couldn't find find you." 

^Ir.. Wildair bowed. "It is too much honor to be remembered 
all these years." 

" Ah ! no doubt; but you sec I have a good memory for my old 
friends, particularly one I used to tpiarrel witii every day. Look 
at that sunset sky — did you ever see anything more lovely ?" 

The steppers pranced gaily through the broad drives; the 
plnuton rolled as if on velvet ; the luminous dusk pf th3 delicious 
spring twilight hung over the earth like a veil of silver haze. 



24 



FATED TO MARRY. 



m 



'I, 

I' I! 



The young moon trembled on the verge of an opal-tinted sky ; 
and tilt noise of the city came far and faint. 

OeoriTfe Wiidair sat beside the fairy heiress, with the starry 
blue eyts and pale aureole of golden hair, like a man in a de- 
lightful dream. Bedridden Hassan, falling asleep at the gates of 
Damascus, and awakening in the princess' palace, vrith that 
royal beauty bending over him, could scarcely have been more 
delightfully dazed. An hour ago, alone and disconsolate, he had 
been cursing his fate, and lo ! with one touch of some magic 
wand, he sat in the princess' carriage, with the pretty princess 
herself chatting delicious nonsense familiarly by his side. 

"And of course we shall expect to see you often — shall we not, 
Mrs. Sterling?" were the words that aroused him from his dream. 
"And to-night, if you drop into the Adelphi, I daresay you will 
see us there. It is my old pet play. ' Tiie Lady of Lyons ;' 
old as the hills, you know, but ever new. That dear, sweet 
Claude Melnotte ! Oh, how I wish some delightfully handsome 
and learned and eloquent gardener's son vould fall in love with 
me, and marry me, as dear Claude did Pauline! It must be so 
nice to be loved like that, and have pale-faced heroes going mad 
for one's sake !" 

"Amy, niy dear!'" rebuked Mrs. Sterling, in her most stately 
manner. 

"It's not proper, is it, ^Irs. Sterling? liut then it's true, and 
I don't mind (leorgc ; we're such old friends, you know\ And 
one likes to say what one thinks, sometimes." 

"I can (juite comprehend the possibility of going mad for Miss 
Amy Earlo's sake," Mr. Wiidair said, in a low tone — and the 
pretty little lieiress sliruggod her dainty shoulders. 

" Oil, of course ! You couldn't help saying that, could you? 
and then I'm ricli : and men have gone mad before now for less 
gold thiui my money-bags liold. I quite understand all that ; 
I've had scores of offers ; but to be loved as Claude Melnotte 
loved ]\Iiss Deschappelles, that's quite anotlier thing, you under- 
stand. I shall look for you at the theatre to-night, Mr, 
Wiidair." 

George alighted at the corner of Fleet street, and the pony 
carriage rolled away. He went to his chambers and made a 
most elaborate toilet, and issued forth under the summer starlight, 
an irresistible Adonis, in a dress coat, and pale, tightly-fitting 
kids. 



thl 
shl 
he 
pe 
ex| 

dal 



FATED TO MAREY. 



25 



iiited sky ; 

'he starry 
Ji in a de- 
le gates of 
v.'itli tliat 
>eeii more 
e, he had 
ne magic 
' princess 
ie. 

11 we not, 

is dream. 

you will 

Lyons;' 

n*, Gweet 
andsome 
ove with 
ist be so 
ing mad 

t stately 

t'lie, and 

^'. And 

for Miss 
md the 

d yon ? 
for less 
1 that; 
oinotte 
undor- 
t, Mr, 

L' pony 
uade a 
I'light, 
lit ting 



Tlie first act was nearly over when Mr. Wildair strolled into 
^the theatre, and swept the house with his lorgnette. Yes, there 
«he was, so brightly pretty, that it was a pleasure only to look at 
her ; the sparkling face, and the pale, rose-hued silk, and the 
pearls, and tlio waxen-white tlowers she wore, all less fresh and 
exquisite than herself. Many glasses were levelled at their box, 
Bome at the great heiress, but more at the sweet, pure face, and 
dainty little statuesque head. 

The curtain fell. Mr. Wildair made his way to the box, and 
was greeted witli an enchanting smile. He took his stand be- 
hind Miss Earle's chair, and whispered sentimental small talk, 
under favor of the music, to his heart's content. And Miss Earle 
deigned to listen graciously to it all, and fluttered her fan, and 
played with her bouquet, and laughed, and sparkled, and was 
rather silly, if the truth must out ; and Mrs. Sterling, dignified 
and frigid, looked on in chilling disapproval. 

The play ended — Pauline was happy in the arms of her Claude, 
and Miss Earle was satisfied. Mr. Wildair gave her his arm to 
her carriage, and left her, with a promise to call upon the mor- 
row, and with one of the waxy japonicas from her hair in his 
button-hole. 

Miss Earle's dreams were usually bright, but they were un- 
usually bright to-night ; and Mrs. Sterling sat up into the small 
hours, writing to her son. 

" He is a shallow, heartless fortune-hunter; and he will win 
her, and marry her and neglect her, and break her heart, poor, 
silly, frivolous child. Komaiice-reading is turning her brain. 
She is pretty and she is sweet, and iiniocent, and trustful as a 
child of three, it is a shame, it is a pity, and all your fault, you 
ungrateful, headstrong boy! Why didn't you marry her? You 
might, wlion we were at lUackwood, if you chose. But no, you 
would be Quixotic — Mr. George A\'ildair's cynical name, for it is 
the riglit one. ' She must see the world ; she must know her 
own value ; you would not entrap her confiding youth and inno- 
cence ; you would not l)o called a fortune-hunter !' Ridiculous, 
romrntic twaddle ! Slie will marry this George Wildair, and be 
miserable all tlie rest of her life !'" 

George Wildair walked home through the misty moonlight 
with the ail" of a conqueror, and a smile of triumph on liis 
face. 



'if ' 



26 



FATED TO MARRY. 



'* How oddly things come about in this world, after all," he 
soliloquized. " Who says the romance is all in three-volume 
novels, tive-act melodramas ? To think that I should becoma 
master of Dorothy Hardenbrook's thousands, in spite of Dorothy 
Haixlenbrook's wiP !'' 



CHAPTEK IV. 



i 



It 

of 

Yo 

4 ou 



i : 



;ii 



i 



IH 



ON THE WEDDING EVE. 

Through a long vista of gorgeous rooms, athwart the glitter of 
gas, and the gleam of jewels, and the wild, sweet music of a 
German waltz, Mr. Wildair went to meet his fairy princess. He 
had seen her several times since the night at the play, l?ut he 
was now to meet her at a West-end party ; a magnificent affair, 
where i\iQ creme de la creme of tlie West-end assembled in dazzling 
toilets, and where the young lawyer was almost unknown. '* But 
any friend of dear Miss Earle's," quoth IMrs. Goldham, the giver 
of the feast, wlien asked for an invitation, "nmst needs be wel- 
come ;" and so Mr. Wildair received a card, and went in all the 
purple and fine linen the nobler sex dare don, and looked the 
handsomest man in tlie rooms. 

Miss Amy Earle thought so as she glanced his way under 
cover of her fan, while flirtin,i>- animatedly with the sou of the 
house. She w^as looking wonderfully pretty herself — a very sea 
nymph, in pale green silk, under misty white, and with emeralds 
glimmering on the exquisite neck and arms. So enchantingly 
pretty, and so deliglitfully rich, wliat wonder if the bright little 
heiress was the triumpliant (picen of the night, ever surrounded 
by the handsomest and most eligible men of the room and re- 
ceiving flattery enough to tui'ii forever a dozen such silly little 
heads. 

George Wildair's heart sank all at once, as lie watclied her re- 
ceiving her perpetual incense, as a princess might; and his high 
hopes suddenly fell. 

" What if I sJiould miss again?" he tliouglit, with a sickening 
feeling of apprehension, " \\'liat chance has a poor fellow, such 
as I am, among tliose millionaires, and sons of millionaires ? 
And yet little Amy isn't the sort of girl to marry for money. 
She is of the sentimental kind, that elope with the coachman, 
and think love in a cottage the height of e«rthy bliss. What is 



i 



^ 



FATPiD TO MARRY. 



a? 



all," ho 
volume 
becoin« 
)orothj 



itter of 
ic of a 
s. He 
but he 
affair, 

azzling 
"But 
e giver 

be wel- 
all the 

fed the 

under 
of the 
nj sea 
leralds 
itingly 
t little 
unded 
nd re- 
^ little 

lei- ro- 
■5 high 

euiiig 
, such 
lires f 
oney. 
imaii, 
iiat is 



it tlie grand, old cardinal says in the play? ' In the vocabulary 
of great men there is no such word as fail!' Courage, mo/i ami/ 
You'll win the licircss yet ! Victory sits at my helm." 

Mr. Wildair paid liis respects to his hostess, and then sought 
-out the belle of the ball. She received him with her brightest 
glance and most bewitching smile. 

\ "Too late, monsieur," she said, gayly, in answer to his request 
for tlie lionor of her hand. " Engaged for tliis waltz and for the 
redowa ; but after that — there !" 

She scrib])led his name with a mite of a gold pencil, and 
Hashed her ivory tablets in his eyes. 

" You're to liave a waltz and a quadrille, and you're to take 
me to supper. Our waltz. Captain Fraser? Au revoir, George." 

Hhe glided away, and the young man's heart throbbed high 
with hope. 

*' She calls me (Jeorge, and she favors me as I sec she t.wors 
none other liere. If she is not the veriest co(![uette that ever 
tiirted a fan, and made playtliings of men's liearts, tlie game is 
already mine." 

^Ir. Wildaiv strolled thronLrh the rooms carelessW while wait- 
ing for his turn to be blessed. He didn't care to dance since he 
could not dance with hei', so he watched the others, leaning idly 
against a pillar, and weaving rose-hnod dreams of the golden 
future to come. 

^liss Ivirlc let her favored cavalier take her into supper, and 
sparkled moro brightly tiiaii the champagne and Moselle. And 
aft(U' snT)per they had a waltz, the music whereof was as the 
music of the spiieres, and they seemed to tloat, not on vulgar 
waxed floor, hut Ktvi iinpalpable air. And Cieorge Wildair, with 
his arm en(Mrcling the taper waist, his eyes aligiiL, his face 
radiantly handsome as the darling of tlie gods, whirled her out 
of the glaring ball-rooni into the green dusk and sylvan quiet of 
a cool conservatory. Far and faint, and unutterably sweet, came 
the nuisic from the b:ill-ro')ni ; soft and silvery floated in the 
bright moonlight through die o})en window ; tinkling fouiitains 
plashed in their marble basins, watched over by pale goddes: es 
and tropical plants, and tropical perfume transformed the place 
from the dull earth to the realms of fairy-land. 

"Oil, how nice !" the little heiress cried. " Moonlight and 
music, dowers and fragrance, and fountains, and everything 



2t 



FATED TO MARRY. 



8i!'i;! 

b 

m 



\M': 






IS 
'is!' 

ll'ii!' 



li!,: 



chanuiiig ! I suppose it's vulgar and so on — as Mrs. Sterling says^ 
— to go off into raptures about things as I do, but I can't help it. 
She calls it gushing and ill-bred ; but I do love pretty things — 
music and flowers, and lovely dresses, Jind brilliant balls ; and I 
can't help saying so, let people think what they plef^se. Life is 
one long, delightful dream, and I woidd not be any one else than 
Amy Earle, tlie heiress, for all the world. What do you think of 
me, after that confession, Mr. George Wildair ?" 

"If I only dared say wliat I think," the young man mur- 
mured. " But no — you would call me mad, presumptuous, and 
impertinent. I nnist not forget that it is not the little Amy of 
by-gone days, but Miss Earle, the heiress, 1 stand beside, and 
that I am a penniless lawyer, obliged to drudge for my daily 
bread." 

Miss Earle's blue eyes dropped, and the rosy light tinted the 
rounded cheeks. But it was not uhe Hush of displeasure ; and 
her voice, timid and fluttering, had nothing of anger in it when 
she spoke. 

" You are rnjust, Mr. Wildair. Amy Earle, the heiress, is in 
no way difierent from the Amy Eaile of former days. I don't 
think I ever gave you grounds for that reproach." 

•' No," he said, bitterly. " You have been all generosity, all 
gracious condescension. But though you may stoop, I cannot 
presume." 

" Gracious condescension ! Wliat nonsense are you talking ? 
Do you want to make me angry, Mr. Wildair?" 

"Oh, forgive me ! lUit if you can forget, in your great kind- 
ness, the difierence between us, I cannot ; I cannot forget that 
you arc Dorotliy Hardenbrook's heiress, and that 1 am a penni- 
less lawyer. I cainiot forget that I love you, and that I am mad 
for my pains !" 

" (ieorge !" 

" Dearest Amy, my love, my darling, let me tell you all mj 
madness now, then banish me forever from your bright presence^ 
if you will. 1 loved you in those days long ago when you were 
no heiress, I ut my dear little playmate. Your image, pure and 
bright as those shining stars up yonder, has been with me ever 
since. And now when I meet you in your dazzling beauty, in 
your unutterable kindness, is it any wonder that the old love 
grows, even at first sight, toonnich for one heart to hold? Amy. 



ng sayg 
help it. 
Ungs— 
I; and I 
'Life is 
56 than 
Ihink of 

|i niur- 
is, and 
my of 
|e, and 
dailj 

ed the 
and 
b when 

5, is in 
don't 

ty, all 
[cannot 

king ? 

kind- 
t that 
^eimi- 
1 mad 



1 my 
ence^ 
were 
3 and 
ever 

y, in 
love 

i-my. 



FATED TO MARRY. 



90 



Amy, see me at yom' feet, not daring to ask for your love, but to 
implore your forgiveness for telling you mine. Pardon my mad 
presumption, my love, my queen, and then banish me forever." 

The eloquent voice died out ; he knelt on one knee before her, 
his head bowed to receive his doom, his face divinely handsome 
in the pale moonlight. Amy's whole face Hushed with rapture 
as she looked. This was love, this was devotion, this was the 
dream of lier life ! Claude IVIelnotte, raving mad for love of 
beautiful Pauline, could not have wooed more romantically than 
this I And he was so handsome, too, with the face of a Greek 
Apollo, and tlio tongue of a masculine siren ! Miss Earle 
stretched out one tinv hand a-glitter with rings, and lifted her 
lover up. 

" KisG, (leorge ; just think if anybody came in and caught you, 
you know. And, oh ! please don't say such dreadful things ! I 
— I don't want you to go away forever." 

"Amy I OJi 1 for Heaven's sake, don't deceive me with false 
hopes now ! Be merciful, and bid me go." 

Tlie pretty hps pouted. 

" It seems to me you are very anxious to go, Mr. Wildair. Of 
course you nuist if you insist upon it ; but mind, I didn't bid 
von."" 

" Amy !" 

Tlic ringed white hand tiuttered out again and nestled into 
his. 

" Voii great silly, (ieorge! to think that my foolish fortune 
could make any ditference in me. Ah ! don't go, George. I 
doji't want vou to leave me forever." 

And then the pretty head, " sunning over with curls," dropped 
on his slionldor. and (Jeorge Wildair, half delirious witii delight, 
clasped Jier in his arms, and held her there — a triumphant con- 
queror. 

^liss Karle and Mr. Wildair were long in returning to the ball 
room ; so long that people were smiling signiticantly, ;ind whis- 
pering prophetically when they did return, 

" See what radiant faces they wear !" some one said to Mrs. 
Sterling. "They 'tread on thrones 'just now, instead of dull 
eartli. No one ever looks like that except young ladies and g'en- 
tlenien in the first ecstasy of engagement. My dear madam, 
your occupation, like Othello's, will soon be gone." 



FATED W MARKY. 









li'' h ' 



■.l!i: '!(| 



Bi T 



Mrs. Stci'liiiij: tVowiicd nu^j^rily. Yos. there was no mistaking 
the moaning of those nipiuvoiis faces. " He has reason to con- 
gratulate liimself. no doubt," she thouglit, bitterly. "He has 
sec'in-ed the heiress snid Jier nu)ney ; but slie, poor, silly, senti- 
mental child, she will pay ii life-long penance for this mad folly. 
He is not a good niiiu — he is selfish and false, and mean to the 
core of his lieart. Heaven knows I love the child dearly, and 
would save her if I could ; but one might as well talk to the wind 
that blows, and hope to change it, as to a romantic girl in love." 

]\Irs. Sterling was wise in lier penetration. That night, or 
rather next morning, in the gray and dismal day dawn, wdien 
the} reached home, Amy came peeping timidly into her room. 
The elder lady sat quietly disrobing herself for bed, ^ery gra^e, 
very i^rim. 

" Please may 1 come ni '!" the little girl said, falteringly. 

Mrs. Sterling looked at her. How tresh, how sweet, how in- 
nocent, how young she was, in her fresh, dainty ball-dress, with 
that timid liush on her cheek, and that wistful, humid light in 
the starry eyes. All the mother's heart within her went out in 
infinite compassion to the orphaned heiress. 

" Yes, my little one, come in, and tell mo all about it. All, my 
Amy, do you think I nin (paite blind'?" 

Amy liid her hot face in the matronly lap. 

" Dear l\Irs. Sterling, how good you are ! 1 didn't know how 
to tell vou. Yes,"' very falteringly, " 1 nin enguf^ed." 

-ToGeoige Wildair?" 

"Yes, to George. Oh! vou don't know how dearlv he loves 
me — you don't know liow bitterly lie feels the difference between 
my wenlth and his poverty. As if it mattered, you know, which 
of us luid the money, so that we have it. If he had the throne 
of the universe he would lay it at my feet. And John — dear old 
John, he will be pleased, will he not, Mrs. Sterling? They were 
such old, old friends', George and he." 

Mrs. Sterling smiled, then she sighed. 

" I hope so, dear — poor John ! ]jut tell me, my chihl, do you 
love this man ? — reallv love him, as a woman should love the 
man she is to marry ?'' 

Miss Earle gave a hysterical little laugh, keeping her flushed 
face persistently hidden. 

" Of course I do. Would I accept him else '? He is so delight- 



ful 



kil 
b( 

t 4 

ail 



# 



i 



FATED TO MARRY. 



HI 



listakiuir 

I to cou- 
' He lias 
', sciiti- 
ad folly. 

II to the 
'ly. and 
lie wind 
11 love." 
ii^^lit, or 
1, when 

room. 
^ ^^nne, 

low in- 
i«. with 
ight uj 
out ill 



^li, my 



w h 



ow 



:' loves 
'tween 
which 
ihrone 
ar old 
Y were 



[o you 
e the 

islied 

light- 



fully handsome, you know; and he waltzes divinely ; and he talks 
like the hero of a novel. What more could any reasonable girl 
desire ?" 

Mrs. Sterling sighed heavily. She lifted the hidden face and 
kissed it tenderly. 

" It is almost five o'clock, my pet, and high time you were in 
bed. Go, and may heaven bless you and make you happy !" 

" You don't like poor George," Amy said, clinging round her. 
*'Ah! how cruel that is, Mrs. Sterling, when you don't know 
any evil about him." 

" Nor any good, my poor Amy ! But I will try and like him 
for your sake. Now go to l)ed and let me go. I'm not in love, 
you know. Amy, and I really should prefer a comfortable sleep 
to half a dozen voung lawTcrs." 

Mr. Wildair dutifully called in the course of the day, and had 
a long, delicious, lover-like talk with his Amy. And from that 
time forward all went on velvet. There was no hard-hearted 
father or iiinty guardian to lash the smooth flow of love's tide to 
frenzy — Miss Earle was her own mistress. j\Irs. Sterling might 
disapprove, but she had no authority to forbid the v^ooing. 

The engagement was announced, and the young barrister was 
envied and hated by luilf the young men in London. Eclipsed 
belles lifted their drooping heads now ; the heire'ss had retired 
from the ranks, and there was balm of Gilead for their bruised 
hearts once more. 

July wore away. London became insupportable, of course, 
and Miss Earle fluttered away with the other butterflies to Scar- 
borough, ^Ir. Wildair followed faithfully. 

The marriage was fixed for October the fifth. There was to 
be a magnificent wedding, a gorgeous breakfast, and a trip to 
the Continent. The wedded pair would spend the winter and 
spring abroad, and return with the June roses to their London 
mansion. 

September pased. October came. On the fourth of the month, 
the "night before the bridal," everything was ready. In the 
heiress' dressing-room lay spread out, in splendid array, the mag- 
nificent wedding-robe, the veil, the wreath, the orange blossoms. 
In the heiress' drawing-room Mr. Wildair sat, bending devotedly 
over her, and talking as men do talk on their wedding-eve. Both 
were radiantly happy and hopeful. No shadow of the awful 
doom hovering over them darkened that blissful hour. 



2 



FATED TO MARRY. 



I'' 



I'i 



R, 1.. 



M^ 



9 : I 

nil ' ' 



!•' 



a. 
-I 



I: '.. 



It was late when Mr. Wildair departed. He lingered, lovingly 
clasping the little hands, and kissing the sweet, girlish face. 

" Good-night,'' he said, "for the last time, my love, my darl- 
ing, my bride !" 

It was a cloudy, overcast niglit, the moon, pale and watery, 
the scudding clouds and raw wind threatening rain. George 
Wildair walked briskly away in the direction of his chambers. 
The cabs that rattled past him were filled with people from the 
theatres ; he preferred the brisk walk to the crush and discomfort 
of an omnibus. He seemed to walk on air. 

"At last !" he said, drawing a long breath ; " at last wealth, 
and ease, and luxury, and every delight this world has to give, 
will be nune. At last, after bitter disappointment, after dismal 
drudgery, after dull despair — at last, in spite of Dorothy Har- 
denbrook !" 

He stopped suddenly ; like a flash came the memory of Isabel 
Vance. He had forgotten her as completely of late as though 
she had never existed. Now she arose before him as she had 
stood that night, long ago, when she had risked a fortune to 
meet him, pale and menacing. 

" \V//e/i I pro%'e false to yoii, I pray God that I may die f' 

He had uttered the terrible -invocation himself, and solemn 
and awful came the memory of that stern "Amen !" which had 
responded. The cold drops started out on (ieorge Wildair's 
brow. 

"Great Heaven!' he thouglit, "what a false, forsworn wretch 
I am ! I deserve the doom I invoked; and if Isabel Vance is still 
living, Isabel Vance is just the woman to stab me to the heart 
for my perjury." 

He was near tlie Temple. He had turned tlie corner of the 
street, and was searching in his pockets for his hitch-key, when 
the figure of a man started out of the sliadow of the houses and 
confronted liim. The light of the lamp siione full upon George 
Wildair's face. 

" To-morrow is your wedding-day, George Wildair," said a 
deep, stern voice; "but to-morrow's sun will surely rise on a 
widowed bride ! Traitor ! Perjurer ! take your doom ! 

The siiarp report of a pistol rang out on the midnight air. 
Policeman X777, strolling leisurely along the next street, sprang 
his rattle and rushed for the spot. 



FATED TO MARRY. 



33 



oviiiglj 
,ce. 
ly darl- 

tvaterj, 
George 
Liiibers. 
om the 
jomfort 

^vealtli, 
:o give, 
dismal 
ly Har- 

F Isabel 
though 
he had 
tune to 



solemn 
eh had 
ildair's 

wretch 

is still 

2 heart 

of the 
, when 
es and 
lieorgo 

said a 
le on a 

lit air. 
sprang 



Under the gas lamp a man lay extended, stiff, and cold, and 
* still, the life-blood pumping out at every breath. 
' No living creature beside was to be seen along the whole 
length of the silent street. 

X777 lifted up the wounded man. The dulled eyes turned 
upon the policeman's face, the dying tongue uttered one word : 

" Isabel !" 

No more. Tlie head fell back, one last convulsive throe, and 
George Wildair was a cold corpse. 



CHAPTER V. 



NEW HOPE MAY BLOOM. 



" I wonder if I shall see him to-night ?" 

The August roses were all in scarlet bloom around that fair 
northern mansion, deep in the lieart of the most beautiful part 
of that beautiful county, Cumberland. It stood quite alone, an 
imposing structure of red brick, buried in a wilderness of trees .- 
So higli, so dark, towered those oaks, and gloomy elms, and 
grand old tirs, that the green gloom of the w^oods w\as duskily 
cool in tlie most blazing noontide. It had been called "Fir- 
Tree Hollow" once upon a time ; but, when it passed into the 
hands of Miss Amy P^arle, tliat romantic little lady had rechris- 
tened it immediately as " IVlackwood Grange." 

" It is as isolated and lonely as poor, dear Mariana's 'Moated 
Grange,' " the young lady said. '• A murder might be done in 
the depth of yonder woodland by a second Eugene Aram, and no 
one be the wiser. It's a dear, delightful, dismal old place, and 
I mean to make it my permanent home." 

This sultry August evening Miss f^arle stands alone at the 
drawing-room window, gazing out, with dreamy blue eyes, at 
the exquisite sunnner prospect. A velvet lawn, a brilliant tlower- 
garden, with a splashing fountain, and bees and butterflies 
blooming in roses and lily-bells ; swelling meadows, rich with 
golden harvest, and dense black slopes of woodland down to the 
shore of the Dove. A lovely prospect, in the hush of the sum- 
mer sunset, the sky all pearl and azure, and in the far west a 
gorgeous oridame of lurid glory. 

The golden-haired heiress stood looking at this splendor of 
earth and sky, with eyes that saw nothing of its radiance. Very 



84 



FATED TO MARRY. 



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pretty she was lookini?, in her sunmiery-white muslin, with bhish- 
roses in her breast, and the nimbus of amber hair rippHng down 
to her slender little waist. 

" I wonder if I shall see him this evenin<( ? He is always there 
in the twili^'lit, playin^?. Oh, how he does play ! No mortal 
hand ever made such heavenly nmsic before!" 

Yos, it had come to that. (Teor<j:e Wildair was nearly a year 
in the cold ;^i'ave, and another man was the "him" of Amy Earle's 
thou<^dits this August sunset. She had been very sorry, unutter- 
ably shocked, at her betrothed's tragic deatli ; there had been 
womanly weeping and hysterics — but she had never loved the 
dead man with any very passionate devotion after all. The hys- 
terics passed, and ^Ir. Wildair was buried, and Miss Earle re- 
tired into crape and bombazine and the seclusion of the great 
('Umberland mansion, and became a most hopeless prey to en/ua 
and sensation novels. They had buried him, and no clew had 
been found to the mysterious and awful death ; and now, scarce 
a year after, he was forgotten. He had been a selfish Sybarite 
all his life, and there were few to regret his tragic end. 

Amy Earle had spent a very dreary winter. The snow liad 
fallen thick and high around lUackwood Grange, and the wild 
winds had howled througli the lealless trees. The roads were 
utterly impassable. Society iK^came a memory of the past. Mrs. 
Sterling and lier ward found life as hopelessly dull as ever did 
Mariana in her Grange. Their only visitor was the clergyman 
of St. Jude's, and occasionally a Hying visitation from John Ster- 
ling. Dr. John Sterling, with his clieerv face and hearty voice, 
and loud, hearty laugli and gonial good-Jiumor, came like a sun- 
burst in upon their diirkness ; and Amy grew to count the days 
of his al)sence drearily, and wish "dear old Jack' would only 
come and live with them for i-ood. And ]\irs. Sterling listened 
in secret exultation. 

" All will come right in the end,'' she tliought. "She will 
marry John yet, and both will be lu\ppy. He loves her, I know, 
and she is learning every day to love Inni'" 

But "man proposes " Y'ou know the proverb. John Ster- 
ling himself dashed all these hopes to the ground. 

It was a tempestuous March night ; the wind howled and the 
snow fell, and the darkness was as the darkness of Erebus. The 
yoimg doctor was plunging along the blockaded road from St. 



I- ? 



FATED TO MARRY. 



35 



ish- 
owu 

lere 
)rtal 



Jude's, ill fur cap and overcoat, and armed with a stout stick. 
He knew every step of the way, and no tempest that ever shrieked 
through the earth was fierce enough to keep him prisoner. He 
phinged along resohitely, with the sleet slashing in his face, and 
was within a quarter of a mile of Blackwood Grange, when a 
belated wayfarer started out from the shelter of a tree and faced 
him. 

*• I ha^^e lost my way," said a peculiarly clear and melodious 
voice. "I want to goto St. Jude's. I am almost perished — 
will you kindly direct me ?" 

John Sterling stopped and tried to see the man's face, but the 
darkness baffled him. 

" It is three miles from here to St. Jude's — too far for any 
man on such a night. You had better come with me ; I think I 
can insure you a supper and a bed." 

*' You are very good," the stranger answered. " I accept your 
offer with thanks, indeed, Dr. Sterling." 

" Hallo !" cried John; " you know me, do you ! By Jove ! I 
wish you joy of your eyesight, for it would puzzle a cat to see in 
this gloom." 

" I have heard your voice before," said his companion, quietly; 
" and I have a good mctnory for voices." 

"And who are you, my friend!" inquired Dr. Sterling. 

" My name is Victor Latoiir — the new organist of St. Jude's." 

"Oh, indeed! 1 have seen you, then, and heard you play. 
Very happy to make your acquaintance, Mr. Latour, and I shall 
be happier when we get out of this confounded snow-storm. How 
came you belated so far from the village?" 

" Miss Hottou, of Mount Hotton, is one of my pupils. I lin- 
gered over her lesson, rather late, and sot out to return, despite 
the entreaties of the family. I think I should have paid for my 
folly by perishing in the snow-drifts, if I had not had the good 
fortune to encounter you. I'our destination is Blackwood 
Grange, I presume '?" 

" It is, and I may safely promise you a cordial welcome on the 
part of its fair mistress." 

" Hospitality is a paramount virtue among you here," said the 
organist. " I have seen Miss Earle at church." 

"And a very pretty girl she is," said John Sterling, " and as 
good as she is pretty. She is devotedly fond of music, too, so 



nf-, 



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86 



FATED TO MAI^RY. 



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you liavc it in your power to make her very happy this even- 
ing." 

No more was said. They reached the liouse, divested them- 
selves of their hats and great-coats, Ktanii)od the snow from their 
top-boots, and were ushered by a fair damsel into a pretty amber 
drawing-room. 

j\irs. Sterhng sat before the lire knitting. Miss Earle on a 
lounge yawning over a book. Even sensation novels, when one 
has iiad a surfeit of them, will pall upon the youthful intellect. 
Both started up eagerly to welcome iJr. John. 

" How do, mother? How do. Amy? Horrid weather, isn't it? 
Allow me to present Mr. Victor Latour, the new organist of St. 
Jude's. I found him like one of the babes in the wood, nearly 
buried alive, and rescued him from an untimely end, like the 
good Samaritan that I am." 

^Ir. Latour bowed to the ladies with easy grace, took a seat, 
and was at home at once, ^iiss Earle stole a second glance at 
him under her eyelashes. How very handsome he was ! Dark 
and pale, and interesting — ^just Miss Earle's style, with raven 
hair and mustache, and slow, sleepy, wonderful black eyes. 

" If he had a Greek cap and a crimson sash, and a scimiter by 
his side, he would look like a Corsair," Amy thought. "I never 
saw a more perfect nose ; and I always did admire thosu creamy 
complexions. Victor Latour! Such a dear, romantic name, tool 
I really tliink he is the handsomest man I ever saw." 

Supper came in — a supper for Sybarites or the gods. Mr. 
Latour was delightful; he talked with an easy grace, and a gene- 
ral knowledge of everything under the sun. Miss Earle listened 
entranced. The slow, sleepy black eyes wandered very often to 
the pretty, rose-hued face, tlnilling her through with mesmeric 
power. It was the hero of her dreams at last — Count Lara in 
the ficsh. 

Mr. Latour played. The superb piano, under those slender, 
white lingers, gave forth grand, grateful tones — the room was 
filled with heavenly melody. Mr. Latour had the soul of a 
Beethoven or Mozart, and the magnificent strains held his hear- 
ers entranced for hours. It was a charming evening, one to be re- 
membered long after; and before it was over Miss Amy Earle 
was deeply, and romantically, and hopelessly in love. 

She sat up late that night, quite into the small hours, nestling 



FATED TO MARRY. 



37 



Mr. 



over the fire, listening to the wild beating of the wintry storm, 
and dreaming delicious dreams. 

"How divinely handsome he is! How magnificently ho plays! 
How beautifully he talks!" So ran the burden of her thoughts. 
** I never saw such eyes, and I never heard a prettier name. 
How glad I am John Sterling brought him here to-night." 

That was the beginning of the end. Mr. Latour departed next 
day, but only to come again and again to Blackwood Grange. 
Miss Earle was seized with a sudden passion for improving her- 
self in music, and began taking lessons immediately. March, 
April, May tlew by like swift dreams. Sunnner came, golden, 
glowing — the most glorious summer in Amy's life. She was in 
love — passionately, ridiculously; a romantic girl's first love — and 
the world was Eden, and she the happiest Eve that ever danced 
in the sunshine. 

And Victor Latour — was he in love, too, with the briglit little 
heiress ? Mr. Latour was a puzzle and a mystery. There were 
times when no lover could be more lover-like, more devoted, 
when smiles lit up the dark, creamy face, and every look was 
love. Then Amy's bliss was complete. 

" He loves me, I know," her foolish heart would flutter. " He 
will propose the very next time we meet. Oh, my darling, if you 
only knew how much I love you !" 

The next time would come, and lo ! ^Ir. Latour came with it, 
dark, cold, moody, wrapped in gloom and mystery — grim and 
unsmiling as doom. Amy trembled before those sombre, black 
eyes. He was more like the Corsair, perhaps, than ever. But 
poor Amy began to think that moody and mysterious beings 
were pleasanter in Lord ]\yron's poem than in actual life. 

" I wonder if he ever committed a murder, like Eugene Aram; 
or lost an idolized Medora, as Conrad did?" Miss Eerie thought. 
"Oh! why doesn't he speak out, when he knows, — he must 
know — I adore him?" 

This sultry August evening she stood wistfully gazing at the 
sunset, and thinking despondently of her idol. 

" He was positively rude to me last evening," Miss Earle 
reflected. "Mr. Kochester was never more grumpy to Jane Eyre. 
I wonder if I shall see him to-night ? He is always playing the 
organ in the church at this hour. I think I'll take a walk up to 
the village.' 



88 



FATED TO MAREY. 



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She took her hat and tripped away, \\'alkiiig swiftly consider- 
ing the heat. Bhickwood lay behind her; she was out in the 
dusty high-road alone, under the opal-tinted sky. No, not alone ! 
Hor heart gave a great plunge. There, coming toward her, was 
the solemn figure she knew so well. That slow, graceful walk 
— ah! further off, she would have known her handsome lover ! 

Mr. Latour was in his brightest mood this sultry twilight. 
He drew Amy's arm through his own, as one who had the right, 
bending hi, stately head over her, and mesmerizing her with 
the witchery of those glorious, black eyes. Very slowly they 
sauntered along. Amy was in no hurry now — she had got all she 
wanted. 

John Sterling had chosen this evening to pay a visit to his 
mother and her ward. Half an hour after, he strode over the 
dusty highway, whistling cheerily, and looking up at the round, 
white August moon. He had entered Blackwood, and was ap- 
proaching the house at a rapid pace, when he suddenly stopped, 

There, before him, walking as lovers walk, bending, whisper- 
ing, loitering, were two forms he knew well. All flashed upon 
him at the sit^ht. 

"Lost!" lie said, turning very pale. "Lost, for the second 
tiniL ! My mother was right — I have lingered too long ! And I 
love her as that man never can ! " 



II 



CHAPTEE VI. 
abiy's wedding day. 

Mr. Latour did not enter the house with Amy. He parted 
with her under the waving trees, with a long, lingering, lover's 
kiss. Dr. Sterling and he met face to face in the silvery moon- 
light. He touched his hat and passed rapidly on, but not before 
John had seen his face. How deathly paie he was! what a wild 
gleam there was in his weird black eyes ! The light of those 
spectral eyes made the young doctor recoil. 

"Good heaven !" he thought, "he looks now like the Miltonian 
Lucifer with that li^^id .ace, those flaming eyes, and that dark, 
demoniac beauty. Who is he ? What is he ? He is not a good 
man ; we know no more of him than if he had dropped from the 
moon, although he has been amc^g us half a year. And that 



tl 



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FATED TO MARRY. 



39 



romantic child is ready to die, or go mad for his sake. My 
friend Latour, I think I'll tm-n amatem' detective, and hunt up 
your antecedents." 

Dr. John met with rather a cool reception, on this particular 
evening, at the hospitable mansion. Mrs. Sterling was decidedly 
cross and out of sorts; perhaps she suspected, or had seen the 
parting embrace under the hemlocks. She had no patience with 
her son's tardiness and delicate scruples of conscience about 
marrying heiresses. And Miss Earle, wrapped in bliss too in- 
tense for smiles or words, sat by the window, and gazed on the 
bright, silvery moonlight. 

Dr. Sterling departed early, with a farewell reproach to the 
ladies. 

" You are both so entertaining this evening that it is hard to 
tear one's self away ; but I have an interesting case up ni the 
village, and business before pleasure, you know. Good-by, and 
I trust the next time I come to Blackwood you'll be able to make 
a remark about the weather, at least." 

" We are rather silent to-night," she said. 

"A penny for your thoughts, ma mereT 

" I can read your thoughts without a penny, retorted the 
elder lady, with some asperity. "Victor Latour, of course! 
Where were you this evening, Mih« Earle '?" 

Miss Earle blushed celestially in the shimmering dusk. 

" Up at the village." 

" It appears to me you are very fond of twilight rambles ap to 
the village of late. ]\[r. Latour was with vou, of course '? ' 

'' Yes," very falteringiy. " Mr. Latour was with me." 

"And parted with you out yonder with a most affectionate 
embrace ! You don't cliooso to make me your confidant, Miss 
Earle ; but if you want to kiss gentlemen, sub rosa, pray take a 
more retired spot than the avenue." 

Amy's golden head had dropped lower. 8!ie was a timid, 
clinging little creature, in whose nature it was not to be haughty 
or angry. She was very fond of this severe matron ; and the 
starry blue eyes tilled with tears now. 

* Dear Mrs. Sterling, slie said, "my second mother, don't be 
angry with poor Amy. I couldn't help it. I — I — love him, I 
love him — oh, so dearly !"' 

"And he !" said Mrs. Sterhng bitterly. "Is it you or your 



40 



FATED TO MAERY. 



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fortune lie loves ? Oh ! Amy Earle I You foolish, sentimental 
child, what madness is this ? This man does not love you ; but 
he will marry you, and will break your heart." 

**No, no, no !" Amy cried shrilly. " Ho loves me — he is true 
as heaven ! Say what you please to me, Mrs. Sterling, but not 
one word against him ! I will not hear it !" 

The little head reared itself, the blue eyes quite flashed. 

'• No !" cried the angry matron ; " you will not hear it ; no 
need to tell me that ! I know what it is to talk to a girl in love, 
but tell me, what do you know of this man beyond his romantic 
name, beyond his efl'eminate, handsome face? What ! you will 
marry him for his black eyes, and his Grecian nose, and his 
sensation-novel name ; and if he turns out to be a London pick- 
pocket or gambler, you will have no right to complani." 

"Mrs. Sterling!" 

'' 1 repeat it. Amy — w^hat do you know of him ? He may be a 
thief or a murderer, for what you can tell to the contrary. My 
own opinion is, he has come here purposely to entrap you into 
this mad marriage. Pray, Miss Earle, when is it to take 
place ?" 

The blue eyes flashed defiance for the first time in Amy's 
gentle life, the slender little form quite towered in its in- 
dignation. 

" I don't know% Mrs. Sterling ; but very soon. Victor loves 
me and there is no need to wait. I will marry him as soon as 
he pleases." 

"Not a doubt of it ! I wish you joy of your bargain ! I have 
no no more to say ; but remember in the future that I have 
warned you. He is not a good man ; there is guilt and mystery 
in his life; I am as certain of it as that I live. As his wife, your 
existence will be one of misery — destitution, perhaps, when he 
has squandered what he marries you for — your fortune. I wish 
you good-night." 

Mrs. Sterhng swept stonnily out of the room, yet " more in 
sorrow than in anger." And Amy, left alone, threw herself on a 
sofa, and, all unused to these stormy scenes, wept as she had 
never wept before in her life. 

" How cruel, how unjust she is !" the little heiress sobbed ; 
"and all because she wants me to marry John. I know she 
does ; though John doesn't want nie, nor I him. But she shall 



FATED TO MARRY. 



41 



be a 

My 

into 

take 



not siiake ray faith in Victor ; no one on earth shall shake it. 
And I will marry him as soon as he likes ; and I don't care 
whether he ever tells me anything about his own antecendents 
or not." , 

The elder and younger lady met very coolly at breakfast. Mrs, 
Sterling was sullenly dignified ar.d Amy was offended. Had she 
not called her idol a thief and a pickpocket ? Miss Earle could 
forgive the grossest insult to herself, but not an insult to her 
dark-eyed hero. 

Mr. Latour called early in the forenoon. Amy was on the 
watch, and met him in the grounds. There was a lone, long 
ramble through the sunlit, leafy arcades, and Miss Earle, after 
the fashion of young ladies, retailed every word of last night's 
conversation. Mr. Latour's black brows contracted in a swarth 
frown, and his dark face whitened with anger. 

"Mr. Sterling calls me a thief or a murderer, does she? 
Eeally, Amy, your elderly dragon is of a horribly suspicious 
turn, isn't she ? Is it for your sake or for her son's, I wonder?" 

" Mrs. Sterling has always been very good to me, Victor La- 
tour," Amy said, deprecatingly ; " aud I am sure she has my 
welfare at heart. And you see, dear, we dont knOw anything of 
you except your name, and — and that I love you with all my 
heart." 

The frown deepened under the broad brim of his summer hat. 

*' And you are a little suspicious, too, my Amy. You must 
have my biography from the hour of my birth, I presume, before 
you commit yourself further. And if the history proves unsat- 
isfactory, it is not too late to draw back yet, is it ?" 

" Victor, how unjust you are ! No, tell me notliing, since you 
can doubt me ; tell mo nothing, and you will see how perfect 
love casteth out fear." 

" And you will marry me blindfolded? take me as I am ?" 

He looked laughing down in her face with a bright look, all 
the clouds gone. 

"My darling!" she clasped his arm rapturously with both 
hands, and looked up into his handsome face. " I know that I 
love you dearly, dearly — that I would die for your sake. What 
more do I need to know ? ' 

" What indeed, my little enthusiast? Nevertheless, I had bet- 
ter make a clean breast of it, for Mrs. Sterling's peace of mind. 






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42 



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FATED TO MAKRY. 






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Unfortunately, there is very little to tell, and that little not in 
the least out of the ordinary humdrum way. I never was a pick- 
pocket, never a blackleg ; 1 can safely say that. I am of French 
extraction, born in Canada, taught music as a profession. Came 
over to tliis country, and, through friends, vv^as recommended 
here as organist. There you have it ; let Mrs. Sterling and her 
son make the most of it." 

Amy was satisfied — it was a little vague, but it sufficed for her. 
Their ramble through the grounds was a very long one, and be- 
fore it came to an end the wedding day was hxed. 

" The middle of September is very soon," Amy murmured, 
deprecatingly ; " but anything to please you, Victor ; Lnd Mrs. 
Sterling is disagreeable of late. Won't you come in to lunch- 
eon ?" 

" Not to-day. Tell your duenna by yourself, and I will ride 
over this eveni)- and see if the shock has proved fatal. Good- 
by, my own. Soon good-by will be an unknown word between 
us." 

Mrs. Sterling heard the news of the approaching marriage 
with cold scorn. 

" As well this moment as the next," she said, frigidly, " since 
it is to be at all. I wash my hands of the whole business." 

All the glittering array of bridal finery, procured in London 
for that other wedding, lay packed up stairs in great boxes still. 
Amy revolted a little from using it. The odor of death and the 
grave seemed to hang around it ; but the time was so short there 
was no alternative. Glistening robe, misty vail, orange wreath, 
jeweled fan, dainty Parisian gloves and slippers, saw the light 
once more ; and the summer days Hew by, and brought around 
Amy Earle's second bridal-eve. 

The September afternoon had been lowering and overcast. 
Sullen clouds darkened the summer sky ; an ominous hush lay 
over the earth ; the trees shivered in the stillness with the pres- 
cience of the coming storm. Through tlie ominous twilight 
Victor Latour rode over from the village to spend his bridal-eve 
witJi his bride. 

How white he was — white to the lips ! and what a strange fire 
that was burning duskily in his great, sombre eyes. What an 
unnatural expression his face wore when he looked at his fair 
bride elect. Surely never bridegroom looked like that in the 
world before. 



not in 
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in the 






FATED TO MAKRY. 



48 



" We are going to have a storm," he said, in a voice as unnat- 
ural as his face. '* Lightning, and thunder, and rain will usher 
in our wedding-day, Amy." 

They were alone together in the pretty amber drawing-room. 
Mrs. Sterling always swept away haughtily when the man she 
disliked entered. Amy looked up at her lover, trembling with 
vague terror. 

" How strangely you look, Victor!" she faltered. "What 
is it?" 

Mr. Latour tried to laugh, but the laugh was a miserable fail- 
ure. 

•* The weather, I suppose. Thunder-storms always give me 
the horrors ; and superstitious people would call it an evil omen 
on our bridal-eve. But we are not superstitious, my Amy ; so 
draw the curtains and light the lamp, and let the avenging ele- 
ments have their fling." 

Mr. Latour lingered until past ten, listening to the music of 
his obedient little slave. He stood behind her chair ; she could 
not see him ; and it was well for her she could not. The rigid, 
white face — white to ghastliness ; those burning black eyes ; 
Lucifer hurled from Heaven might have looked like that. 

Amy accompanied her lover to the portico. The storm lad 
not yet burst, but the nigJit was inky dark. The darkness, or 
the thought of that other tragic wedding-eve, made her tremble 
from head to foot as she bade her betrothed good-by. 

" Oh, my love, be careful," she whispered. " If anything hap- 
pens to you I shall die." 

" Nothing will happen !" He set his teeth fiercely in the dark- 
ness. "I defy Fate itself to separate us two. Good-night, my 
Amy ; look your prettiest to-morrow, my sweet, fairy bride." 

The storm broke at midnight. The lightning flashed the 
thunder rolled, tlie rain fell in torrents. Amy, cowering and 
frightened, huddled under the bed-clothes in an agony of terror, 
and longed unutterably for morning and sunshine. 

IMorning came, but no sunshine. The sky was still of lead, 
the rain still fell sullenly, ceaselessly.* The hours wore on ; ten, 
tlie time for the ceremony, arrived ; the guests were assembled, 
shivering in the parlor. The bride, lovely in her bridal robes, 
stood ready and waiting in the midst of her bride-maids ; but the 
hour had struck before the bridegroom came. 






44 



FATED TO MARRY. 



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He came. The fate that had struck down George Wildair 
spared Victor Latour. He was there, pale as a dead man, with 
a look in his wild e>t.s that made people recoil in terror; but 
there he was, and the ceremony went on. 

It was over — Amy was a bride. There was embracing and 
congratulating. Breakfast was eaten ; the wedding-dress was 
changed for the traveling-suit ; the happy pair were in the car- 
riage and away. 

Tliey reached London that evening, and drove to the Gros- 
venor Hotel. And all through that day's journey Victor Latour's 
lips had not opened half a dozen times. Silent, sullen, moody 
mysterious, he sat wrapped in gloom ; and the light of his weird 
black eyes made Amy shiver like an aspen leaf. Oh ! what was 
this that had come upon him on his wedding-day ? 

" I have something to tell you, Amy. A secret to tell you — a 
terrible secret, that you must swear to keep." . 

They were alone in a spacious cliamber, and these were the 
first words he had spoken to her. His face looked livid in the 
gaslight, his eyes were blazing like coals of fire. 

" Victor!" 

" You must swear, Amy ! Never, to ycur dying day, must you 
breathe to a living mortal the secret I shall reveal to you now. 
Here is a Bible, lay your hand upon it and swear." 

The spectral black eyes held her with their horrible, irresisti- 
ble liglit. She could no more have refused than she could have 
fallen at his feet and died. She laid her hand upon the sacred 
volume, and repeated after him a terrible oath of secrecy. 

" And now listen to the secret of my life." 

There was a secret then. Even in this supreme moment the 
old loaven of romance thrilled Amy with a little tremor of ro- 
mantic delight, She sat down at his feet, and listened to the 
few slowly-spoken words that he uttered. 

Ten minutes later Mr. Latour left the room hurriedly, ringing 
the bell as he left. He met a chamber maid on the landing, 
hastening to answer the summons. 

" My wife is ill," he said. " You had better try cold water 
and sal volatile ; I am afraid she is going to faint." 

He hurried away. The girl looked after b.im aghast ; then 
opened the chamber door, and entered. And there, in a white 
heap on the carpet, lay the bride, in a swoon. 



i 



FATED TO MARRY. 



45 



Wildair 
n, with 
or ; but 



ng and 
3SS was 
the car- 



e Gros- 
jatour's 
moody 
is weird 
hat was 

you — a 

reve the 
i in the 



lust you 
ou now. 

irresisti- 
ild have 
e sacred 



nent the 
)r of ro- 
)d to the 

ringing ' 
landing, 

id water 



it ; then 
a white 



CHAPTER VII. 



POST-NUPTIAL BLISts 



The waving trees around Blackwood Grange were arrayed in 
the sere and yellow leaf long before Mr. and Mrs. Latour return- 
ed from their bridal tour. The chill winds of October had blown 
themselves bleakly out in the green glades and leafy arcades 
around that stately mansion ; and the ides of November had 
come when the happy pair returned home. 

During the two months of her absence, Mrs. Latour, for the 
first time in her life, proved herself a bad correspondent. She 
had written but one letter, and that of the briefest and brusquest, 
to Mrs. Sterling. It was a polite notice to quit. 

•' Dear Mrs. Sterling," the bride wrote, " my husband thinks 
newly-married people are always better entirely by themselves. 
I shall regret your loss, but of course it must be as he says, 
Nurse Carry is quite competent ; tell her to take charge and have 
everything prepared for our arrival. We shall return by the 
middle of November." 

Mrs. Sterling smiled bitterly over this effusion. 

' ' You might have spared yourself the trouble of ordering me 
out, Mr. Victor Latour, if that be your name. I would not have 
dwelt under the same roof with you for a kingdom. Oh, my 
poor little Amy ! You are the veriest puppet that ever danced 
helplessly in its master's hand." 

Mrs. Sterling departed to St. Jude's, and took up her abode in 
the bachelor apartments of her son. There came no more let- 
ters, and Amy had always been addicted to note-scribbling. 

" But what can you expect,^' said Mrs. Sterling, with a bitter 
laugh, " wrapped as she is in post-nuptial bliss? The scheme of 
the universe holds but Mr. Victor Latour just at present. It is 
to be hoped the illusion will have worn off before her return." 

'* It is to be hoped the illusion will never wear off," said John 
Sterling, gravely, " if the illusion makes her happier. Don't be 
so bitter, mother ; the poor little girl will pay dearly enough for 
her folly, I dare say. Heaven knows! I wish I could save her." 

His mother looked at him almost contemptuously. 

" I don't believe you ever loved her, John Sterling." 

" That is your mistake, my good mother. I love Amy so well 
that if I could see her happy, with the husband of her choice, I 



I*." 



46 



FATED TO MARRY. 



r 



HV: 



m 



1M 



•I 
• 1 



slioulfl be almost happy myself. You love licr motlier, and so do 
I, but in a dilteront way, I think." 

The Noveuibor day' that brought the bridal pair came swiftly 
round. Tlie house was all in order ; fires bva-ned in every room ; 
the dinner table was spread, and the servants, in gala attire, 
were waiting to welcome their young mistress home. 

The short November afternoon was darkening down into a cold, 
raw twilight, when the carriage came rattling up the avenue. It 
had been a dull day, threatening snow ; a few flakes had flut- 
tered now through the opaque air, and the wailing wind was 
desolation itself. In the cold, bleak gloaming the little bride's 
teeth chattered as her husband handed her out, and her face 
looked woefully pallid, as she passed in, leaning upon his arm. 
Mr. Latour looked much the same — dark, and cold, and sombre, 
and wrapped in his dignified gloom, as in a toga. 

Mr. and Mrs. Latour dined tete a-tete, waited upon by Nurse 
Carry and her understrappers. The bride scarce touched the 
tempting viands ; but Mr. Latour ate and drank with the relish 
of a hunsfrv traveler. 

The quiet little village of St. Jude was on the qui vivc the fol- 
lowing Sunday to see the happy pair at church. Mr. Latour had 
resigned his office of organist, of course ; and he and his bride 
walked up the aisle, the cynosure of score.-; of eyes. Mrs. Latour 
shone resplendent in all the glory of London millinery ; her dress 
was exquisite, her mantle a miracle, lier bonnet a perfect love, 
but — St. Jude stared with all its eves. What was the matter 
with Amy ? The Christmas snow-drifts w^ere not whiter nor 
colder than her face. Tliose gay, smiling blue eyes, once so 
sparkling and starry, looked out of that pallid face with a fixed 
look of unutterable fear ; she stood before them the wan sliadow 
of the radiant little Amy often months ago. 

" She has awakened," said Mrs. Sterling, with a momentary 
thrill of spirit, notwithstanding her compassion. " The delusion 
is over ; her idol of gold has turned out potter's clay." 

Dr. John looked at the altered face of the girl lie had loved ; 
then at the dark, impenetrable face of the man beside her, and 
his heart hardened. 

" He is a greater villain than even I gave him credit for," he 
said. " He begins the work of breaking her heart betimes. I 
would have spared him for her sake if I saw he made her happy ; 
now I will hunt him down as I would a dog." 



% 



i 
■ 



FATED TO MAKRY. 



47 



lid so do 

! swiftly 
y room ; . 
a attire. 

a cold, 
mue. It 
lad flut- 
ind was 
) bride's 
her face 
lis arm. 
sombre, 

f Nurse 
lied the 
le relish 

the fol- 
\o\xv had 
is bride 

Latour 
ler dress 
3ct love, 

matter 
iter nor 
once so 

a tixed 

sliadow 

nentary 
ieliisiou 

1 loved ; 
ler, and 

For," he 
ues. I 
happy ; 



The numerous friends of ^liss Amy Earle began at once to call 
upon Mrs. Latour. Mrs. Latour received them in her spacious 
parlors, exquisitely dressed ; and Mr. Latour was there to assist 
her. Call when they might, the ladies of St. Jude could never 
find her alone. Near her, bending over her chair, the dark, 
handsome face and fathomless black eyes of Victor Latour shone, 
freezing e;'cry attempt at confidential conversation. He was 
scrupulously polite, but these ladies went away with no court- 
eous request to repeat their calls. And Amy sat like a white 
automaton, and talked in monosyllables ; she, who had been the 
most inveterate of chatter-boxes, now looked up at her husband 
witli the wild, wide eyes of a frightened child. 

Mrs. Sterling and her son were among Mrs. Latour's callers. 
The lady was too strong minded, and too fond of her charge to 
be frightened away by the bridegroom's black looks. 

" I'll go there now, and I'll go there again, and still again," 
she said, grimly. "I don't think Mr. Victor Latour will open 
the door and order me out, and nothing less shall affront me. 
I'm not going to give up my poor little girl altogether, to be 
eaten alive by this black-eyed ghoul." 

Tlie scared face and scared blue eyes of the little bride lit 
eagerly up, for the tirst time, at sight of her old friends. She 
sprang up to meet them with a low cry, but a hand fell lightly 
on her shoulder from beliiiid. Its touch was light as down, but 
a. mailed grasp could not have checked her quicker. 

" My dear Amy," the soft voice of Victor Latour murmured, 
"pray, don't excite yourself; be calm! You ai-cglad to see Mrs. 
Sterling, no doubt. Tell her so, by all means ; but don't make 
a scene." 

The black eyes looked down into the blue eyes, and tlie bride 
cowered before the bridegroom, as a whipped hound before its 
master. She held out her hand to her old friends, with a few 
very coldly murmured words of greeting. 

The interview was short, and eminently unsatisfactory. 
Strong-minded as Mrs. Sterling was, conversation was impos- 
sible with that frigid face, and those weird, dark eyes staring lier 
out of countenance behind Amy's chair. 

"I shall call and see you again. Amy," she said, pointedly, as 
she arose to go, "when the honey-moon ends, and there is a 
prospect of being able to see you alone." 



t 



R I 



48 



FATED TO MARRY. 



'<?« 



*• 

t 



ii« 



Amy looked at lier with a startled face, but Mr. Latour an- 
swered for her witli a sliort, mocking hiugli, 

" Tell your knid old friend, Amy, that our honey-moon has not 
yet connuenced. As to seeing you alone, tell her you have no 
secrets from your husband, nor he from you, and that he really 
cannot separate himself long enough from his charming bride, 
even for a confidential gossip with Mrs. Sterling." 

He bowed her blandly out as he spoke ; and, wonderful to re- 
late, Mrs. Sterling went without a word. She looked up into 
his face defiantly, but the black eyes had met her with so strange 
a light in their sinister depths that she absolutely quailed 
before it. 

*' He looked like a demon !" she burst out, to her son. " The 
light of those fierce, black eyes w^as absolutely horrible. Good 
Heavens ! I don't believe the wretch is human !" 

*'Ple is a bad man," answered Dr. Sterling, *'and a mysterious 
man. There are dark and deadly secrets in his life I am sure. 
There is a look in his face that repels me with absolute horror, 
at times. I have doubted "' then he paused. 

"Doubted what?" 

"It is a terrible suspicion, mother; but I have doubted 
whether Victor Latour is really sane. There is a wild, unnatu- 
ral light in those great black eyes of his, on occasions, that never 
shines in the eyes of a sane man." 

" There appears to be metliod in his madness at all events," 
retorted his mother, " He was sane enough to secure for him- 
self the little heiress." 

" The subtle cunning of partial insanity is a very good substi- 
for a sane man's worldly wisdom, l^ut it is a revolting subject, 
mother, — let us drop it. Poor little Amy !" 

" Poor little Amy, indeed! You may thank yourself for it. 
The game was in your own hands before this man came along. 
She might have been your wife now, instead of Victor Latour's, 
if you liked." Dr. Sterling madsi no reply. His face wore a look 
of pain, almost remorse. Poor little Amy ! How unhappy she 
looked ! And he had loved her, and might have made her his 
happy wife. 

There w^as a round of dinner-parties given in honor of the 
bridal pair, and Dr. Sterling and his mother often met Mr. and 
Mrs. Latour in society — Mr. Latour always dark, cold, politely 









FATED TO MARRY. 



49 



tour an- 

i has not 
liave no 
le really 
ig bride, 

111 to re- 
up into 

> strange 
quailed 

"The 
. Good 

rsterious 

im sure. 

horror, 



doubted 
unnatu- 
at never 

events," 
or him- 

substi- 
subject, 

for it. 
3 along, 
atour's,. 
e a look 
ppy she 
her his 

of the 
^r. and 
politely 



frigid and impenetrable, as if that handsome face of his were an 
iron mask ; and IVIrs. Latour always the same pale, scared, silent 
shadow., And last of all there was a grand party at Blackwood 
Grange, to wind up these entertainments — a very superb affair, 
indeed ; and, after that, society saw little of the newly married 
couple. Further invitations they declined — Mrs. Latour's 
health, Mr. Latour said, precluded the possibility of gay so- 
ciety. 

December came with high winds and snow, and Amy ceased 
to appear even at church. Mrs. Sterling grew seriously uneasy, 
and rode over to Blackwood. Mr. Latour met her in the hall, 
and told her his wife was suifering from a chronic headache, and 
could see no one ; and absolutely froze the blood in her veins 
with the glare of his back eyes — and, cowed and conquered, 
Mrs. Sterling left to call no more. 

Christmas came, and the New Year came, with their festivities. 
It was Christmas Eve, and Mrs. Sterling sat alone in her little 
parlor, waiting for her son. Outside, the snow fell thick and 
fast, aud the winter wind wailed. Inside, firelight nnd lamp- 
light, and a bright little supper-table, made a charming picture 
of home-like comfort. 

The door-bell rang. "John at last," said Mrs. Sterling, and 
rising, she opened the door. 

But it was not John. A little tigure, up from the storm, glided 
in. It threw back the hood of its cloak, and ^irs. Sterling 
dropped into a chair, with a sliriek. 

"Amy!'' 

Yes, Amy ; but so unlike herself, so like a spirit, that for an 
instant the matron recoiled. 

" Have I frightened yon ?" said the sweet voice. " You did 
not expect a visit from me, did you'? But it is so long, oh ! so 
long, since I saw you, that I could not resist the temptation." 

"And ^Ir. Latour?" Mrs Sterling gasped, " where is he ?" 

" Gone to meet the captains at the Citadel; I mean to dine at 
Major Mallory's; and I took advantage of his absence, and stole 
out. I have but a moment to stay ; I don't wish him to discover 
this visit." 

" He plays the tyrant well!" said Mrs. Sterling, bitterly. "And 
you the submissive slave. Oh, Amy Earle ! pluck up a little 
spirit — defy him I Don't let him trample you under his feet !" 






50 



FATED TO MARRY. 



if 

o 



Ml': 



Amy covered tier face with botli haiulH, and burst out cryiii 
convulsively. 

** You don't know ! You don't know ! And I dare not tell you ! 
Oh, Mrs. Sterling, I wish I were dead." 

"Amy, for Heaven's sake, tell me ! What is the secret of this 
man's power over you? Something more than a wife's fear of a 
cruel husband. Tell me ; it is not too late to save you yet." 

" Too late ! too late ! too late !" cried Amy, wringing her 
liands. " I have sworn, and I dare not break my oath. His 
wife ? I am no wife ! Oh ! what am I saying. I must go, Mrs. 
Sterling. I shall betray myself. I have seen you for a moment 
. — that is all I wanted. Good-by! Good-by !" 

She rushed from the room like one insane. Mrs. Sterling fol- 
lowed in a panic of fright. 

"Amy ! Amy ! for Heaven's sake, come back! Y'ou will per- 
ish in the storm !" 

But there was no reply. The little figure had fluttered away 
into the chill blast, and there was nothing to be seen but the 
black niglit, that was falling, falling. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



^ -1 1' 



KLLEN KOSSITER S L PATTER. 

Facing the falling snow and tlie bitter blast, with the sturdy 
defiance of strong, young manliood, Dr. John Sterling plunged 
his homeward way through tlie drifts, whistling cheerily a 
Christmas anthem. The rod liglit from the curtained windows 
of his home Hared out brightly atliuart the fluttering flakes. 

"No place like home," thought Dr. John, "particularly on a 
stormy winter night, and after a hard day's work. 1 hope none 
of my patients will be so uin*easonable as to call me out again in 
this tempest. My good mother has about given me up for lost, 
I dare say." 

He opened the door with his latch-key, and stamped the snow 
off his boots and overcoat. The parlor door opened, and his 
mother's pale anJ anxious face looked out. 

" Y'ou, John ? How late you are ! You must be nearly frozen 
and famished." 



FATED TO MARRY. 



51 



crying 

11 you ! 

of this 
sar of a 

ig lier 
. His 
0, Mrs. 
lomeiit 

[iig fol- 
ill per- 
il away 
Hit the 



sturdy 
unged 
urily a 
iidovvs 
es. 

y on a 
e none 
^ain in 
)r lost, 

3 snow 
id his 

frozen 



•' Both, mother ; and ready to do wonders among your Christ- 
mas dainties, l^ut what's the matter? Have you seen a ghost, 
that vou wear that scared face ?" 

" Something very much like it, John," his mother said, grave- 
ly; •' come in. Oli, you will do as you are ! Sit down hero and 
get warm. Did you meet any one on your way coming home ?" 

'♦ Did I meet any one ! And this Christmas eve ! There's a 
question ! ])id I meet whom, mother?" 

♦* Amy EoTle." 

" Mrs. Latour ? My dear mother, what would bring an inva- 
lid out on ^uch a night ?" 

*' Misery — madness, perhaps. She has been here." 

" Mother!" 

** It is quite true ; she left not a quarter of an hour ago. She 
came like a ghost and vanished like one." 

*' Alone?" 

*' Alone, and on foot. Was ever such madness heard of ? The 
tyrant was away, for a wonder, dining at Major Mallory's, and 
the imprisoned slave broke her bars and came here." 

'• Good Heaves ! on such a night ! It is enough, with her con- 
stitution, to give her lior death." 

" I don't think tliat we need to lament that, if it be so. Death 
is sometimes a merciful relief. I would rather see her at rest in 
her coffin than that villain's wife." 

"Mother, you exaggerate, I think. What brought her here? 
What did she say ? 

"Nothing that lean repeat — all was incoherent and wild. 
She wished she was dead ; it was too late for mutual help ; she 
was not his wife ; she had sworn to keep his secret and dare not 
break her oath. And then she broke out with a wild storm of 
hysterical sobbing, and said she wo ild betray herself if she lin- 
gered longer, and rushed out of the liouse like a mad thing. I 
followed, but she was already out of sight. John, I think misery 
is turning her brain." 

" Heaven forbid 1" said her son. He had turned very pale, and 
sat looking into the glowing coals. '* Mother, I must go over to 
Blackwood Grange to-night." 

*' Impossible, John, in this storm.'' 

*' The storm will not hurt me, mother ! and I would brave ten 
thousand such storms for poor Amy's sake. How do we know 



li 



52 



FATED TO MARKY. 



i > "! 












t 



11 



; * 






what may have befallen her on such a night. I will go now at 
once." 

"Not until after supper," said his mother, resolutely. *' I 
will not hear of it, John. Here, draw up your chair ; it is quite 
ready, and quite spoiled by waiting." 

Dr. Stei'ling obeyed. He had been hungry enough a moment 
before ; but now he munched his toast and drank his tea mechan- 
ically. Pale and moody he sat. What if that little pale crea- 
ture had never reached home ? What if they should find her 
white and cold, among the pitiless snow-drifts ? He pushed 
away his cup and plate, and arose. 

" Already?" said Mrs. Sterling, reproachfully ; *' and you said 
you were hungry." 

'* I cannot eat, mother. Good Heavens ! she may be lying" 
frozen to death by the way-side, while I loiter here. Poor child 1 
Poor Amy ! I wish Victor Latour had frozen to an icicle in the 
winter's storm, the night I first brought him to Blackwood 
Grange." 

He seized his overcoat savagely, and put it on. Thrusting his 
hands into his pockets, in search of his fur glove, he brought 
forth a letter. 

" Hollo ! I quite forgot this. A letter for you, mother." 

He threw the letter in her lap. Mrs. Sterling eyed the super- 
scription in somewhat great surprise. 

*' A woman's hand, and an unknown one to me. Post-maiiied 
Framlingham. Why, John, that is the Lancashire village where 
Miss Dorothy Hardenbrook died. Whom can it be from ?" 

" You had better open it, and see." 

Mrs. Sterling opened the envelope, and drew forth a closely- 
written sheet. As she unfolded it a card fell out upon the carpet. 
Her son stooped and picked it up. 

'■'■ k carte lie visite ! It can't be a love letter with the gentle- 
man's picture inclosed therein. Why " 

He stopped and stared. The picture was not a gentleman's. 
It w^as a vignette ; the dark face of a young girl of more than 
common beauty. Two great, dark eyes lit up a handsome gipsy 
face — a bold, bright, dauntless face that could not fail to im- 
press. 

But it was not the beauty of that pictured face that held Dr. 
John spell-bound. It was its unaccountable familiarity. It was 



FATED TO MARRY. 



58 



as familiar to him, that gipsy face, as his own in the glass, and 
yet he could not place it. 

*♦ Where have I seen this woman ?" he thought. ** It is a face 
not easily forgotten. Those big black eyes ; that determined 
chin ; that square, bold brow ; that compressed mouth. Great 
Heaven ! it is the face of Victor Latour !" 

John Sterling absolutely recoiled from the picture and his own 
discovery. But in an instant he had recovered. 

" It cannot be Victor Latour, of coui'se. But if Victor Latour 
had a twin sister on earth tliis is her portrait." 

He turned the picture over. On the back was written, in a 
bold decided hand : " Truly yours, Isabel Vance, Framlingham, 
May 4th, 18—," 

*' Isabel Vance ! Isabel Vance !" repeated the young doctor. 
** I have heard that name before, too. Ah I I recollect. Isabel 
Vance was the young lady Miss Hardenbrook disinherited. What 
does she mean by sending her picture here ; and what does she 
mean, also, by being the living image of Amy Earle's villainous 
husband ?"' 

He was interrupted by his mother. Mrs. Sterling rose up very 
pale, and placed the letter in liis hands. 

" Read that, John. It is a dying woman's warning, but I fear 
it comes to us too late." 

John took the letter, and looked first at the signature. It was 
not ** Isabel Vance," but ** Ellen Rossiter," and the letter ran 
thus : 

'• Mrs. Sterling : Madam — Although personally a stranger to 
you, I know that you ai'e the guardian and nearest female friend 
of Miss Amy Earle, of Blackwood Grange, the young lady to 
whom Dorothy Hardenbrook left her fortune. It is on Amy 
Earle's account that I write this letter. 

" I am a woman lying on my death-bed, and before you receive 
this I shall be in my grave. Accept it as a voice from the grave 
— a voice raised to warn your ward. Pray Heaven it come not 
too late. 

"Dorothy Hardenbrook had adopted a young relative, a Miss 
Isabel Vance, with the resolution of making her her heiress some 
years before slie died. She took this Isabel Vance off the stage, 
for she was a play-actor, and shut her up in the house at Fram- 
lingham. She was very severe with her, and the girl needed it, 



54 



FATED TO MARRY. 



m 



[A 



1 



m 



-■«<:* 



for she was bold, and bad, and headstrong, and unscrupulous. 
She was engaged to a young man she had known in the city, Mr. 
George Wildair, and he used to follow her secretly and meet her 
in the village. Miss Hardenbrook hated him, and forbade Isabel 
seeing him on the pain of disinheritance. Isabel promised and 
disobeyed — lying came natural to her. She met him again and 
again, by night and by stealth. Miss Hardenbrook discovered 
it, and the result was she disinherited Isabel, and left her fortune 
to Amy Earle. 

" Isabel's many troubles came all at once as troubles do come, 
Mr. Wildair jilted her immediately — it was her fortune he want- 
ed, not herself. He jilted her, and she left the village and dis- 
appeared. If ever woman looked possessed of a demon, Isabel 
Vance did the last time I saw her. I knew then she would do 
something desperate, and I know she has done it. 

" The next I heard of Mr. George Wildair he was engaged to 
Miss Earle ; the next I heard he had been foully murdered the 
night before his wedding. Madam, Isabel Vance did that deed ! 
I am dying and I say it — Isabel Vance shot her false lover just as 
surely as I shall be judged. 

" I have not seen her since. I don't know what has become 
of her ; but I do know that that is not likely to be her first and 
last crime. She will wreak her vengeance on Miss Earle, too, if 
you do not take care. She is subtle as a serpent, cunning as a fox, 
and unscrupulous enough and daring enough for any deed under 
heaven. I send you her picture that you may recognize her, if 
you ever meet ; and there is a specimen of her handwriting on 
the reverse. Beware of her ! I say it solemnly and warningly 
— a dying woman — beware of Isabel Vance. 

** Ellen Rossiter." 



Abruptly and startlingly the letter closed,. Dr. John looked 
up from it to see his mother staring at tlie picture much as he 
had stared. 

"Who is it?" she said, with a bewildered look. " Surely I 
have seen that face before ! "John, wlio is it?" 

" Try again, mother— tliink over the people you know in this 
vicinity. Imagine that splendid crop of hair, cut short; imagine 
a mustache on that dainty upper lip, and I think you will 
have it." 



FATED TO MAKRY. 



m 



ipulous, 
ity, Mr. 
leet her 
B Isabel 
jed and 
aiu and 
covered 
fortune 

3 come. 
e want- 
nd dis- 
Isabel 
ould do 

aged to 
L'ed the 
t deed ! 
just as 

become 
st and 
too, if 
3 a fox, 
under 
her, if 
ing on 
lingly 

looked 
as he 

rely I 

|i this 

igine 

will 



Mrs. Sterling dropped the picture, as if it burnt her, and stag- 
gered backward with a loud cry. 

"It is Victor Latour. Isabel Vance is Victor Latour !' 

"Good gracious, mother!" exclaimed the doctor, startled by a 
supposition that had never struck him, "what a preposterous 
idea ! For Victor Latour to be one and the same person is the 
wildest of wild impossibilities." 

" I don't care !" cried Mrs. Sterling, hysterically ; " it may be 
impossible, but it is true. Oh, my poor little dove ! in the claws 
of that hawk ! I understand all now ; she said she was not his 
wife. That is the secret he made her swear to' keep; he had to 
tell, and made her swear not to betray him. Oh, John, he will 
murder that child." 

Dr. John stood gazing at his mother with an awful blank face. 
It seemed such a mad supposition, such an utterly incredible 
idea — and yet 

" 1 don't know what to do, mother," he said ; " I never thought 
of this." 

"Go up to Blackwood Grange, at once !" exclaimed his mother, 
frantically, "and tear the mask off that horrible wretch's face. 
Have Isabel Vance a/ias Victor Latour, lodged in jail before 
morning, for the wilful murder of Mr. George Wildair. Go!" 

"No, no, no!" said Dr. John, "not so fast! There is no 
hurry — we will do nothing rash. I couldn't get Victor Latour 
arrested on the baseless suppoe^ition of an old dead woman. We 
will be slow — we will match strategy with strategy, cunning with 
cunning. Trust me, mother, I will save Amy yet." 

" What do you mean to do ?" said Mrs. Sterling. 

" Give me this picture. I will go at once to Blackwood and 
endeavor to see Amy. Heaven grant she may have reached 
home in safety. Once there, I will know what to do. Don't sit 
up for me, mother, I may return late." 

"As if 1 could sleep. And, John, for Heaven's sake, take care 
of that wretch. If Victor Latour or Isabel Vance suspects that 
you know the secret of her life, your life will not be worth an 
hour's purchase. You will be found like poor George Wildair." 

"I am not atraid of Victor Latour," said Dr. John, coolly; 
"forewarned is forearmed; good -by, mother; I beg you'll not 
sit up for me." 

Dr, Sterling mounted his nag and set off. As may be imag- 



56 



FATED TO MARRY. 






M 






1 '». 



H 

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ined, the young doctor's reductions were not of the most lively 
description as he rode jilon^^ tlirougli the night air. He could 
not help feeling that he had already twice lost the heiress 
through his own over-scrupulous sense of honor; and he was not 
at all certain that he would be able to win and wear her 
after all. 

He had a sort of misgiving witliin himself that, even should he 
be successful in rescuing Amy from the thraldom in which she 
was held by Victor Latour, after all the romance with which her 
life had been invested, she would consider a union with him too 
prosaic and commonplace. 

He was one of those strong, deep, and self-sacrificing natures 
which will do as conscience dictates as the right, even at the 
sacrifice of the dearest wishes of the heart, and he was now more 
than ever determined to do what he considered his duty both to 
Amy and to himself. 

His love for her was all-absorbing, and would last his whole 
life long, but it was undemonstrative and in perfect accord with 
the rest of his character. Until he could see that she returned 
it he had made up his mind that not one word of passion should 
escape his lips. 

But there was one thing he had resolved with all his heart and 
all his soul. She should no longer be subjected to the vile ty- 
ranny of the scoundrel to whom, in a moment of infatuation, she 
had linked her fate forever. Mr. Victor Latour would, no doubt, 
be as relentless a foe as he had proved himself a worthless hus- 
band ; but, come what may, the truth should be dragged from 
him, and the whole mystery of his life be rendered as clear as 
the noon-day sun. Dr. Sterling compressed his lips firmly as he 
thought of the daily — nay, hourly — torture his darling was suf- 
fering, and involuntarily put spurs to his horse, as if the action 
would quicken her release. 

He had fully determined on the morrow to make his way over 
to Framlingliam and probe the affair of the letter to the bottom ; 
but first he must try what could be done at Blackwood Grange. 
He reached his destination after about an hour's disagreeable 
riding. A footman answered his thundering knock. 

" Is your mistress at home. Hunter?" 

" Yes, sir ; just arrived out of the storm. Come in, Dr. Ster- 
ling ; missus is in the drawing room." 






FATED TO MARRY. 



57 



He threw open the door of the cozy, crimson-draped room — 
miutterably co/y after the wild white tempest without. Carpet, 
curtains, sofas, chairs, all were of rich glowing crimson, upon 
which the fire-light and lamp-light glowed with flashing bright- 
ness. , 

Seated on a low footstool, crouched over tha fire in a strange, 
distorted attitude of misery, was the little mistress of all this 
splendour. Her hood had fallen back, her pale yellow hair hung 
loose and disheveled, and the face turned to the fire was color- 
less as the winter snow, 

She started up at sight of her visitor with a cry. 

** Dr. Sterling ! I thought it was Mr. Latour." 

She laid her hand on her heart, as if to still its tumultuous 
beating. Dr. John advanced and took both her hands in his, 
and looked down with infinite tenderness and compassion on that 
poor, thin face. 

"My pale little Amy! You are whiter than the drifts outside, 
this stormy night. Thank Heaven, 1 find you here safe ! What 
madness. Amy, for you to face this bitter storm !" 

She covered her face with her hands, and tearless sobs shook 
her from head to foot. 

" I was so miserable, so lonely, so desolate, so forsaken, so 
heart-broken ! Oh, John ! You don't know. You can't know! 
I am the most wretched creature in all this wide earth." 

" Victor Latour is a villain, a cold-blooded tyrant and villain; 
but it is not too late to save you from him yet. Amy, I think I 
know the secret of his life — the secret he made you swear to 
keep." 

She looked up at him in blank, speechless terror. 

"It is impossible," she said, slowly. " No creature on this 
earth knows it but himself and me ; and I have not broken my 
oath." 

" We will see," said Dr. John. " You would be glad to have 
your chains broken, ^"ould you not? To be freed from this hor- 
rible union ?" 

•' Glad !" Her wliole face lit up at the thought. " It would 
be new life — it would be heaven on earth. But it is impossible ; I 
am his wife ; I cannot desert him for what is his misfortune, not 
his fault. No human law can give me a divorce for an infirmity 
he cannot help." 






m 



! .* • 



1* ^ 



^1 



58 



FATED TO MARRY. 



I I' 

Sri. :; 



i 



I- 






Dr. John stared at her bewildered. What did she mean ? 
"His wife!" "Infirmity he could not help I" Surely they 
were at cross purposes. The secret he knew, or thought he 
knew, was not the secret she had sworn to keep. Was his wild 
supposition only a wild delusion after all ? 

" Where is Mr. Latour ?"*he asked, presently. 

'•At Major Mallory's ; he has not yet returned. I expect him 
every moment ; and, John, don't be angry, please — but I had 
rather he did not find you here." 

"I shall not remain long," replied the doctor, quietly; "but 
before I go, Amy, have you any letters or notes of Mr. Latour's 
in the house ? I have a particular reason for wishing to identify 
his writing." 

Amy looked at him in surprise. 

"Victor's writing? Why, John ?" 

" I will tell you presently. Oblige me in this matter, if you 



>' 



can. 

" I can easily — wait a moment," she said. 

She opened a volume on a table near, and produced a copy of 
manuscript verses. It was Tennyson's "Break, Break," beau- 
tifully written ; and Dr. John started at sight of the faultless 
chirography, as if it had been a death's head. It 'vas the hand- 
writing of Isabel Vance. 

" Yon will permit me to retain this. Amy "? Thank Heaven ! 
Your freedom is near at hand." 

He folded the paper and put it in his pocket. Amy gazed at 
him in wonder — he was pale even to the lips. He started up to 
go, holding out his hand. 

" Good-by, Amy, and good-night. Keep up a good heart, I 
think your troubles are almost over." 

Amy's answer was a low cry of terror. Her eyes were fixed on 
the door-way in a wild, dilated stare. Dr. John wheeled round 
and confronted Victor Latour. 



10 



In!'' 



\U. 



FATED TO MARRY. 



69 



CHAPTEE IX. 



ILL UNTO DEATH. 



There was an instant's dead silence, during which the two 
gazed steadfastly at each other. Dr. John's pale face and fear- 
less grey eyes met the wolfish glare in the black orbs of Victor 
Latour unflinchingly. 

" So !" cried the latter, hissing his words, and turning sud- 
denly upon Amy — " so, madam, this is how you amuse yourself 
in my absence, is it ? You send word to your old lovers, and 
they face the howling tempest, and spend the long winter even- 
ing cozily by your side. A thousand pities, is it not, thiit I 
should come in at this early hour and spoil your tete-a-tete ? My 
dear Dr. Sterling, pray don't hurry on my account ; conduct 
yourself precisely as though I were still at Major Mallory's." 

** I intend to," said Dr. John, coolly. " I was taking my de- 
parture when you appeared so unceremoniously — I shall take it 
now. Good-night, Amy ; my mother will be relieved to hear you 
are so well." 

He bowed to trembling Amy, and stalked past Victor Latour, 
towering above him by a head. An instant later and the house 
door closed heavily behind him. Mr. and Mrs. Latour were 
alone. 

An artist, wishing to paint a living embodiment of terror, 
might have taken Amy for his subject at that moment. She 
stood clinging to the back of a chair, her face utterly colorless, 
the blue eyes dilated until they were almost black, the lips 
quivering, the slender form trembling from head to foot. Those 
wild wide eyes were fixed upon the face Victor Latour as if 
fascinated ; the white lips strove to speak, but no sound came. 
He stood confronting her, dark as doom. Only for a second ! 
Then, with one stride, he was beside her, grasping her arm in a 
cruel grip. 

"Traitress!" he hissed; "perjured traitress! And this is 
how you keep your oath ?" 

"I have kept it, Victor — truly, faithfully, so help me, Hea- 
ven " Oh ! don't, don't ! As truly as I live, 1 have not betrayed 
you." 

Then what brings that meddhng interloper here to-night ? 



<( 



'1,. 









60 



FATED TO MARRY. 



I 



n 



I 



I': 






[■!»■' 
■ n ■ 



How came he to kuow I was absent from home? You, madam, 
sent him word." 

'• No, no, no ! I knew nothing of his coming — I never sent 
him word. He was the last person I expected to see to-night." 

" Or wished to see ; eh, Mrs. Latom* ?" with a sneer. *' He 
was a lover of yours, you know, in the days gone by." 

'* He never was !" Amy cried with spirit. " John Sterling was 
always like a brother to me, always my good, kind friend. 
Never anything more." 

" Indeed ! And pray what brought your good, kind friend all 
the way from St. Jude's this stormy night ? Tell me the truth, 
mistress, or it will be worse for you ! He had somv^ purpose in 
coming. What was that purpose ?" 

" Let go my arm, Victor. You hurt me." 

*' I will hurt you still more if you do not answer me at once, 
and truthfully. What brought John Sterling to Blackwood 
Grange to-night *?" 

•* No earthly harm, Victor — I am sure of it. He came to see 
me and a — specimen of your handwriting." 

" My handwriting !" He dropped her arm, and stood staring 
at her aghast. "My handwriting! What could Dr. Sterling 
want vvitli that ?" 

"He did not say. Some question of identity, I think, he 
mentioned ; but there could have been no particular purpose." 

"Couldn't there ? Much you know about it. Did you gratify 
his whim?" 

"Certainly, Victor; I never dreamed you would object. 
There was a copy of verses in a book on the table. I gave him 
that." 

" And he kept it, I'll be sworn ?" 

" He kept it, I think — yes. If I had thought you would ob- 
ject, Victor, indeed I never would have shown it." 

"You're a little fool, Amy, and John Sterling is a meddlesome 
knave ! But let him take care ; I have risked too much to lose 
lightly now. If I hnd him prying into my private affairs, by 
Heaven ! I'll treat him as I treated " 

Ho stopped short. His face was livid. His eyes blazing. In 
that moment he looked like a madman. 

" Don't stand there gaping like an idiot !" he cried, turning 
with sudden rage upon the affrighted Amy ; * ' don't you see I'm 



to 



...^1 



FATED TO MARRY. 



61 



ladam, 

;r sent 
ght." 
-He 

iig was 
friend. 

end all 

truth, 

pose in 



t once, 
skwood 

to see 

staring 
terling 

ink, he 

ose." 

gratify 

object, 
^e him 



lid ob- 

esome 
to lose 
irs, by 



g. In 



irning 
3e I'm 



wet to the skin ? Ring the bell, and simimon your servants ; 
let them fetch me my clotlies. Do you want me to get my 
death? But of course you do, you little white-faced hypocrite ; 
tliat is ths dearest desire of your heart ; and then you might 
marry the big hulking doctor — 'John Anderson, my Jo, John' 
— ' your brother !' your ' good, kind friend !' But I'll bailie you 
both yet !" 

Surely Victor Latour was mad. His voice rose to a shrill cry 
— his eyes flamed like living coals. He strode toward her — then 
stopped. 

His white face turned dark red. He put his hand composedly 
to his head, staggered blindly and fell prostrate at her feet. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Sterling, in pursuance of his resolve, had 
started on his journey to Framlingham. He was not the man, 
when he had once formed a plan of action, to let the grass grow 
under his feet before he put it into execution. Cool, clear-sight.'>d, 
and practical, he saw at once that it would be useless to chal- 
lenge a crafty villain like Latour, until he had more evidence 
than a mere letter and a photograph, which might simply be a 
spiteful hoax, and by going straight to Framlingham the doubt 
could be at once solved ! It was the day before Christmas, and, 
as he bade his mother good-by, he smiled soiTowfully. 

" Not a very cheerful task, mother, for Christmas eve," he 
said, " but if your darling is to be saved, no time is to be lost." 

" Heaven go with you and aid you in your task. Now don't 
go and be too scrupulous in asking questions. Leave not a stone 
unturned to learn the truth." 

" Trust me, mother," he said, as he kissed her at the gate; "I 
am not likelv to be too nice when there is so much at stake, 
however delicate I may feel, where only my own wishes are con- 
cerned. If this Ellen Rossiter is above ground I will find her, 
and shall prove her words, or I will know the reason why." 

The old lady watched his stalwart figure striding off in the di- 
rection of the nearest railway station, and sighed as she thought 
what a wasted life his would be were his mission unsuccessful. 

*' I believe the girl loves him in her inmost heart," she mused ; 
" but she is so vain and frivolous that she does not know her own 
mind. At least she has had a terrible lesson, and married life 
with Mr. Victor Latour ought to have awakened her from her 
silly, romantic dreams." 






62 



FATED TO MARRY. 



111.' ♦ 

u. 






i 



She turned and went into the house, as lier son's figure was 
lost in the tliickening gloom of the winter's day, to await his re- 
turn on thf morrow with feverish anxiety. 

Dr. Jolni himself walked briskly along the snow-clad road, 
and, to toll the truth, his mind was, first of all, exercised as to 
the manner in which he was to get across the country to Fram- 
lingham. lUackwood Grange was a goodly distance from any 
large town, and he had first to get to a centre whence he could 
get on into Lancashire. However, it had got to be dons, and he 
calculated that he could catch the train at the little way-side 
station. If fortune befriended him, he thought he could get to 
his journey's end before the daylight had quite fled from the sky; 
and then, by pushing his inquiries the same night, get home by 
mid-day on Christmas day. 

He was very lucky in catching the train which took him half 
way along his route at express speed, and he got out at Fram- 
lingham station, as George Wildair had on that wild March 
night, when he went to that fatal rendezvous with Isabel Vance, 
but with very different feelings, and on a very different errand. 
The talkative little station master, whom we have met before, 
seeing he was a stranger, touched his hat respectfully to him. 

" Can you be of service to me ?" responded Dr. Sterling to his 
civil question. "Well, yes; perhaps you can. Do you know 
anything of Miss or Mrs. Ellen Rossiter who lives here ? I wish 
very much to see her on a matter which may be one of life or 
death." 

The man shook his head. " You are too late, sir," he said; 
'* the poor thing died yesterday morning. She never quite got 
over the shock of losing Miss Hardenbrook's money, after slav- 
ing her life out for it as slie did. But if you'll step down with 
me, my missus can tell you all about her, for she has lived with 
us for the last year or so, since she had to do needle-work for a 
living." 

Dr. Sterling thanked him, and, after he had given a few neces- 
sary directions to his subordinates, he led the way to a neat little 
cottage close to the station. The wife, a pleasant, comely woman, 
but who spoke with rather a broad north country accent, was 
only too ready to impart all the information she had to give, 
which, though not much, was quite enough to satisfy Dr. Sterling 
of the genuineness of the letter, and of the truth of its contents. 



FATED TO MARRY. 



f)3 



He left the worthy couple the richer by a five-pound note for 
their trouble and kindness, and with a promise on tlieir part to 
give him access to tlie dead woman's papers, if necessary. Slie 
had neither kith nor kin and all belonged to them. He then 
betook himself to the Crown Hotel, where the landlord, who was 
a particular friend of the lawyer who had drawn Miss Harden - 
brook's will, and who was perfectly well acquainted with all the 
circumstances connected with Isabel Vance's unhappy courtship, 
confinned all that the station-master's wife had said. That niglit 
Dr. Sterling slept sounder than he had for many a week, and, 
when he presented himself at home on the following day, his 
mother saw by his face that he had succeeded. 

*' I have solved the mystery, I believe, mother, and to-night 
shall put the scoundrel fairly to the test." 

But the end was to come sooner than he anticipated. The 
two were seated at their solitary dinner on Christmas day, when 
a carriage from Blackwood came over the frozen snow, and 
stopped at their door. A moment later and the little maid-ser- 
vant ushered in the mistress of Blackwood Grange. 

** Amy, what has happened '?" 

Both started up with the same question, for Amy was deadly 
pale, and the frightened expression that had grown habitual to 
her of late was wild alarm now. 

"Oh, John! Oh, Mrs. Sterling! V'ictor is ill — dying, lam 
afraid!" 

And then tender-hearted little Amy sank into a chair and burst 
into hysterical weeping, and told tliem, incoherently, how he 
had fallen in a lit last night ; how they liad got him to bed ; how 
they had brought him to after infinite trouble ; and how his first 
act had been to turn everv one of them out of the room and 
double-lock the door ; how they had listened in fear and tremb- 
ling all night, outside his chamber-door, and heard him raving 
in wild delirium, and walking to and fro, talking insanely to 
himself; how he had raved and walked, all this long day, until 
he had fallen on the bed from sheer exhaustion, and lay there 
like a dead man. How, frightened almost to death, she, Amy, 
had fled hither for succor from Dr. John. 

" And, oh, please come !" Amy cried, piteously, clasping her 
hands, "and force the door, and see what you can do for him, 
I know that you are not a friend of his, John, and that he dis- 



64 



FATED TO MARRY. 



'1 



i 



I 



I,' 
i» - 



4 I,; 












likcH yon ; but, oli ! he is dyiii^', and yon muHt try and forget the 
past, for my sake." 

" ^ly poor little Amy," John said, with infinite love and com- 
passion, '* I would do far more than that for your sake. I will 
go at once, and my mother shall come, too ; you will need her 
services as nurse. 1 think I understand why Victor Latour 
locked the chamber door. Mother put on your bonnet and come; 
I am certain you will be needed." 

Half an hour later and the tiio were back at the lonely old 
house, its western windows all ablaze with the yellow wintry 
sunlight. The housekeeper met tliem in the hall. 

•' He hasn't oi^ened his door yet, ma'am," she said. " He lies 
there like dead. I verily believe he has gone mad." 

John called upon the footman, and, obtaining the necessary 
tools, forced the door. *' Stay here an instant. Amy," he Maid. 
" I will call you and Iny mother directly." 

He entered and closed the door. Victor Latour lay upon the 
bed, still wearing the same clothes he had w^orn at Major Mal- 
lory's dinner-party. The dark face was burning red, and the 
false mustache was gone, and the face was the very face of Isabel 
Vance. 

Dr. Sterling opened the door a moment later and called his 
mother in. 

" It is as we suspected," he said, gravely ; " Victor Latour is 
Isabel Vance. You will remove her mascpierade, and replace it 
with suitable garments. The unfortunate woman is on the verge 
of a raging brain fever, brought on partly by mental excitement, 
and partly by wetting and exposure. It is ten to one if she ever 
rises from that bed I" 

" Better so," said his mother, sternly. " And Amy ? But Amy 
knows !" 

"No," said Dr. John, "that is the strangest part of the story; 
I don't believe she does. Whatever the secret was she swore to 
keep, it was not the secret of this trickster's sex. You will break 
the deception that has been practised upon her as gently as you 
can. I will go now, and return with the necessary medicines in 
an hour or two." 

He quitted the room. Amy stood waiting on the landing out- 
side. He took both her hands in his, and looked down lovingly 
into her troubled face. 



FATED TO MARRY. 



65 



'• My own Amy !" ho said. " My pale little «,Mrl ! All will be 
well with you soon now. There is a shock in store for you — 
bear it like the little heroine you are. My Amy ! to think that 
paper walls should have held us apart so long. Go in ; my 
mother has something to tell you." 

She looked after him wonderingly; then she opened the cham- 
ber door and went slowly in. 

Mrs. Sterling led her to the bedside ; the light was dim, but 
gradually one object after another became discernible till her 
eyes rested on the face of her husband — smooth, pale and mo- 
tionless. Slowly the truth dawned upon her, and with a strange 
gasp of surprise and astonishment intermingled, she sank into 
Mrs. Sterling's arms, burying her face in her bosom. 



CHAPTER X. 

SUNLIGHT AT LAST. 

In that spacious chamber, hung with satin damask, carpeted 
in mossy green, adorned with exquisite pictures and statuettes, 
the mystery of Bl;ick\/ood Grange was a mystery no longer. 
Lying in the low, French bed, whiter than the snowy pillows, lay 
Isabel Vance. Victor Latour, that mockery of man, was no more. 
Isabel Vance, in the white robes of her sex, lay tossing there, 
raving in delirium, or sleeping the heavy, unnatural sleep pro- 
duced by drugs. 

Amy knew all. TJie unutterable wonder with which she had 
first heard, her wild incredulity, her absolute inability to con- 
vince herself of tlie truth, are not to be described. It proved 
the truth of Dr. Sterling's assertion — whatever the secret she 
had sworn to keep, that was not it. Slowly the truth forced itself 
upon her, day by day, until she could realize it at last. She 
clasped her hands in indescribable thanksgiving, her whole face 
alight with joy. 

"Thank Heaven!" she cried. "Oh, thank Heaven! thank 
Heaven! Better anything than be what I thought I was— a 
madman's wife !" 

" What !" exclaimed Mrs. Sterhng. 

But Amy, with a frightened cry, covered her face with her 
hands. 

"I have broken my oath — I swore not to. Oh ! don't ask me 
questions, Mrs. Sterhng — I dare not tell you !" 



66 



FATED TO MARRY. 









m 






M 

m 



Iff 



Mrs. Sterling smiled. She could guess jiretty nearly the truth 
now. 

They did not tell Amy that other horrible suspicion, that 
Isabel Vance was the murderess of George Wildair. Such ghastly 
horrors were not for innocent ears ; they would spare her that if 
they could. 

Mrs. Sterling, Amy, the housekeeper, a id the doctor were all 
who were allowed to set foot in that sick-room. The amaze of 
the housekeeper was something ludicrous in its intensity ; but 
there was no help for it — they were forced to take her into their 
confidence. And by day and by night, for two long weeks, those 
three women watched by the bedside of that guilty woman who 
had wronged one of them so deeply. 

This wild January afternoon Mrs. Sterling sat by the bedside, 
watching her patient with a very grave face. The crisis of the 
fever had arrived ; there was little chance of the sick woman's 
recovery, and they did not even hope it. Better for tliem, better 
for her, that death should release her, than that slie should live 
to end her days in a madhouse or a prison. 

Amy sat Dy the window, gazing dreamily at the fast-falling 
snow. An infinite calm had settled upon her — a deep content; 
a stronger, truer, more fervent love than any fantasy she had 
ever known, was slowly dawning in her heart. Her sorrows had 
been heavy, her disappointments bitter; but new hope blooms so 
soon in tlie hearts of young persons of nineteen or twenty. 

As tlio short winter day faded into early dusk the snow 
ceased ; but the ground was heaped high, and tlie bitter wind 
shrieked icily. Amy arose to draw the curtains and light the 
lamp. 

'* I am afraid the roads are impassable," she said. The snow 
is higher than the fences, and John will persist in coming the 
most tempestuous nights. How is she ?" 

She stopped short with a thrill of terror. 

For two great, dark eyes looked up at her weirdly fro'n the bed 
— two eyes in which the light of delirium shone no longer. 

"Where am I?" said a low, faint voice. "What is it? What 
has happened ?" 

"You have been very ill," answered Mrs. Sterling — " ill of 
brain fever. Don't ask questions; drink this and go to sleep." 



FATED TO MARRY. 



^7 



of 



Jig the 



What 



But Isabel Vance pushed away the cup with her delicate hand, 
and fixed her great dark eyes on the matron's face. 

** What is it?" still in that faint whisper. ** What has hap- 
pened ? What is it ? Tell me !— tell me !" 

She looked at Amy — memory seemed struggling back in her 
dull brain ; she looked at Mrs. Sterling ; she looked around the 
strange room, at her own dress — and all burst upon her like a 
flash. She sprang up in bed with a cry those who heard it might 
never forget. 

♦* Lost!" she shrieked, 'Most! lost! lost!" 

She fell back ; there was a fierce convulsion that seemed rend- 
ing soul and body apart, and Isabel Vance lay on the pillows like 
one dead. 

The midnight hour had struck. Through the rain, wind and 
high- piled snow. Dr. John had bravely made his way, and 
reached the Grange as the mystic hour had struck. Amy met 
him with a white, scared face. 

*' She is dying, John!. Oh! if yoa had but come sooner! No-^ 
thing can save her now." 

*' Nothing could have saved her at any time. My coming 
sooner would have been of little use. My mother is with her. 
Has she spoken yet?" 

Still, with that white, frightened face, Amy told of that di-ead- 
ful awakening. She trembled with nervous teiTor from head to 
foot as she recalled it. 

"My poor little girl!" Dr. Sterling said; "these death-bed 
horrors are too much for your tender heart. Go to your own 
room, my Amy, and lie down ; you look worn out. I don't want 
my precious little treasure — lost so long — to wear herself to a 
shadow. Go and try to sleep." 

"But, John " 

" Miss Earle, I insist upon being obeyed. If my patient ex- 
presses a wish to see you, you sliall be called. Meantime, go to 
bed and go to sleep. I am not accustomed to being disobeyed ; 
and don't you begin, mademoiselle. Go !" 

He turned her toward her own room, led her to the door, and 
left lier there witli a parting tlireat if she dared disobey. Amy 
fimiled to herself as she went in. It was very sweet to be taken 
possession of in this way by Dr. John. 

In the sick room Isabel Vance lay fluttering between life and 



68 



FATED TO MARRY. 






£'>'■ 

?1. ' 



"ii 



i; 



1^ 



death. Nothing could save her now. She lay, whiter than 
snow, still as marble, but entirely conscious, entirely calm ; the 
great black eyes looking blankly before her at the wall. 

The dark eyes turned upon the young doctor as he entered, 
but the old light of hate was there no more. 

'* Shall we send for a clergyman, Miss Vance?" he said, bend- 
ing over her ; " youT hours on earth are numbered.'' 

She shook her head. 

" No clergyman can lielp me — I am long past that." 

'♦ 'Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become white as 
snow.' The infinite mercy of God is beyond our poor compre- 
hension, Isabel." 

She shook her head again. 

"You don't know! You don't know! I have committed a 
greater crime than deceiving and making wretched the life of an 
innocent girl. Jolm Sterling, I am a murderess !" 

" 1 know it !" 

She stared at him with wild, wide eyes. 

'• You shot your false lover, George Wildair, the night before 
he was to have married Amy Earle. You deceived her to possess 
yourself of tlie fortune Dorothy Hardenbrook should have left 
yo" You see I know all." 

" And yet you talk of forgiveness." 

" l^ecatise there is forgiveness for all who repent." 

" But I dont repent. I would do it again, if it were to be 
done. George Wildair deserved his fate ; and yet I was mad 
the niglit I sliot hnn — mad with my wrongs. 1 don't think mj 
brain has ever been riglit since. What 1 told Amy, the day I 
married her, was the truth, after all." 

'- What did you tell her?" 

" Do you not know? Dut I suppose she kept her oath. I told 
her 1 was a monomaniac — possessed of a desire to murder her. 
1 told her the intensity of my love had begot that mad desire — 
that I dare not remain an instant with her alone, lest I should 
plunge the fatal knife into her heart. She fainted, poor little 
girl ; and ///^/ secret kept my other secret. A babe could impose 
on that insipid little nonentity." 

" Poor Amy ! You have been merciless to her, Isabel Vance!" 

" Well, you can console her when I am gone. I am beyond 



FATED TO MARRY. 



69 



than 
1 ; the 

itered, 

, bend- 



liite as 
ompre- 



tted a 
e of an 



before 
possess 
ive left 



e to be 
IS mad 
ink mj 
3 day I 



I told 
ler her. 
esire — 

should 
)r little 
impose 

/aiice!" 
beyond 



your power and hers. You would like to have me tried for mur- 
der, I dare say. Death will save you that trouble." 

Amy slept long and soundly until, when the sun was shining 
brilliantly on the snow, tlie housekeeper brought her tlie break- 
fast she had so used her to. Amy ate, reft-eshed by her deep 
sleep, and Imrried to the sick-room. 

It was very, very still. The shutters were still closed, tlie cur- 
tains still drawn. Mrs. Sterling moved softly about ; Dr. John 
met her on the threshold. 

"AH is over," he said. "Isabel Vance died this morning, 
almost without a struggle." 

He led her to the bed. Strangely quiet and white, in the 
solemn majesty of death, lay Isabel Vance. More beautiful in 
death than she had been in life, the cold features looking like 
those of an exquisite statue carved in marble. 

It was given out that Victor Latour was dead, and, on the 
third day, a stately procession left the gates at Blackwood. But 
in some way the story leaked out, got whispered abroad, crept 
into the newspapers, warped and distorted, until John Sterling, 
for Amy's sake, felt compelled to come out with the truth. Far 
and wide people talked of the wonderful tale, and doubted, and 
were amazed. It was the most unheard of occurrence that had 
ever transpired. 

Amy Earle left Blackwood Grange, and Mrs. Sterling with her. 
They took up tlieir abode in London until spring, living very re- 
tired, and preparing for a marriage and a long toui' abroad. 

Early in May, Dr. John Sterling left his patients in St. Jude's 
for a very prolonged holiday, and joined his mother in London. 
And a week after there was a (juiet wedding ; and Amy, for the 
third time, wore the starry veil and orange wreath of a virgin 
bride, and became a l)lessed wife at last. 

They went abroad. Three years tliey spent on tlie Contineirc; 
then, with a baby and a Swiss nurse, they returned liome, and 
Blackwood Orange became the happiest home in the land. 

J)r. John is a model and a paragon of married perfection ; and 
Amy Sterling is the happiest little wife, the blesaedest litlJe 
mother, in Merry England. 

THK END. 



1 1' 






KATHLEEN. 



A HOLIDAY STORY OF MEKRIE ENGLAND. 



i 



F?1 



I 



il^?" 



It was the men'y Christmas-time ! Year after year had gone 
by, but though separated far from each other at all other times, 
at this annual festival we all met together in the old ancestral 
hall of our family. Some were rich, some were poor ; but we 
were all Percys — all one family, after all. And so Sir Robert 
Percy, my uncle, to whom, as eldest son, the family estates had 
fallen, assembled all his relations yearly, young and old, rich 
and poor, in the old family mansion, to spend the gay season of 
Christmas with him. The silence and gloom that all the year 
round hung over it was banished then ; merry voices made music 
through the great, dim, echoing rooms ; fairy forms ilitted like 
sunbeams up long, winding staircases, through stately galleries 
and grand old chambers. Such a racket and uproar as resound- 
ed through the dear old homestead those merry Christmas days ! 
scaring even the sober old mastiff into a game of romps, and 
making Sir Robert's mellow laugh ring out at the gambols of us 
youngsters. 

It was Christmas Eve ! The Yule logs were piled higli, and 
roared and crackled up the huge chimney, filling the wide hall 
with light and heat. The Christmas tree, loaded with gifts and 
bon-bons, stood on one side, glittering and Hashing in the light 
of the tall Christmas candle above it. The windows and walls 
were draped with evergreens and scarlet hollyberries, while 
wreaths of mistletoe hung from the doors and ceiling. 

It might have been a picture for an artist, the group assembled 
in that great hall. In his large carved oaken chair, in the chim- 
ney corner, sat the host, Sir Robert, his pleasant countenance 
and mellow laugh diffusing an air of home-like mirth around. 



li^ 



i'* 



KATHLEEN. 



71 



Ranged downward, in a circle before the fire, were brothers and 
sisters, heads of famihes, old maiden aunts, and antiquated 
uncles. There were college boys, fresh from Eton or Cambridge, 
with tremendous lungs and alarming appetites ; awkward girls, 
free from the restraints of boarding-schools, and seeming deter- 
mined, by their noise, to atone for the enforced silence of the 
school-room. Dashing guardsmen, young lawyers, and those 
units in the world — younger sons of impoverished fathers — 
roguish country lasses, finished flirts, artful coquettes — all were 
mingled in harmony together. Little heart-aches and family- 
quarrels, all were for the nonce forgotten ; for this was Christ- 
mas, and we were all Percys alike. 

Among all these cousins, the only one I really cared for was 
Kathleen Moore. Her mother, Edith Percy, had married an 
Irish baronet, and had gone with him to reside in Ireland. Here 
Kathleen was born ; and never was queen on her throne prouder 
of her broad realms than she was of the land of her birth. 

Somehow, from the first, I became her favorite. I know not 
why it was so ; we were as unlike as two extremes could be, 
with nothing of a Percy about me, except, perhaps, a touch of 
the family pride. She was cold, stately, and haughty ; / was the 
wildest, maddest elf that ever danced in the moonlight; she was 
reserved and thoughtful, I was wayward and impulsive ; and yet 
some secret tie drew us together from the first. 

This Christmas Eve that I am telling you about, Kathleen sat 
within the arch of a deep bay-window, gazing out into the cold 
moonlight, while I stood behind her, weaving a wreath of crim- 
son berries amid her jetty braids, that were bound like a coronet 
round her proud head. 

" How handsome you are to-night, Kathleen 1'' said I, as I fin- 
ished the wreath, and turned to survey her. " Your cheeks are 
as red as these bright hollybcrries, and your eyes are shining 
like stars. I wonder if this other cousin of oiu-s, who is coming 
to-night, is as handsome as you?" 

" I thought you had seen her?" said Kathleen, inquiriik^iy. 

" Oh, so I did once — when we were both children; but that is 
four or five years ago. She was a pretty little thing then." 

" Tell me about her, Gypsy" (this is not my name, but I was 
always called so). " Why have we never met her here with the 
rest ? I have never thought of asking before." 



72 



KATHLEEN. 



k 






! 
I 

1 ' 



m 
m 

ft?-* 



** Oh, there's not much to tell. She was sent to France when 
quite a little girl, for her education — her mother's French, you 
know, and thinks all the rest of the world are barbarians. But 
now, I suppose slie is finished, and will honor us with a visit. 
Listen, they're calling us below." 

"Kathben, Kathleen, Kathleen!" chorused half a dozen voices 
at once. 

*' Gypsy, Gypsy ! where's Gypsy?" came again to our ears, after 
another pause. 

•* Ccme, Kath., let us go down," said I, passing my arm around 
her waist, as we ran down the oaken stairs. 

*' Fairer than ever, ma belle cousifie,'' said the voice of Eandal 
Percy, in a whisper to Kathleen, as we entered. 

I looked up, expecting to see the scornful curl of her lip, with 
which she always received complimentc, but it was gone now. 
A sudden flush crimsoned her oval cheek, and a softened expres- 
sion filled the usually cold, black eyes, as she looked up into his 
handsome face with a smile. I had often wished Randal and 
Kathleen might love each other ; but the hauteur with which 
she had always treated him, had hitherto made the wish seem 
vain. 

" I like cousiji Randal, don't you, Kath ?" said I, abruptly. 

'*A little," she said, starting and coloring deeply. 

"Come, Kathlt en — come, you must be que en of our Christmas 
feast," said the gay voice of Mary Percy, as slie came dancing to- 
ward us. " Here, Gypsy, we'll make you first maid of honor to 
her majesty ; you're prime favorite already." 

" Where's uncle Robert?" said I, without heeding her. 

"Dear knows,'' said Mary, indifferently. "I heard a carriage 
coming a minute ago, and I suppose he weiit down to see who 
hftd an-ived. 1 hope no more will come. Goodness knows there 
is a crowd of us liere already !" 

As Mary spoke the door was flung open, and Uncle Robert 
entered, witli a young lady leaning on his arm. Even now — 
though many a weary year has passed since — I remember he:* 
perfectly. Her dress of pale-blue satin swept the carpet, and fell 
in graceful folds round her slender form. Her complexion was 
clear and colorless, her eyes deep and blue, shaded by long, silky 
lashes, while a shower of golden curls fell rippling over her white 
neck, like waves of light. 



a-: 



KATHLEEN. 



73 



"Beautiful! peerless!" exclaimed an enthusiastic voice be- 
hind us. 

I turned and saw Randal Percy, who — so absorbed in watch- 
ing the new-comer— did not notice us at all. Kat'ileen heard 
him also, as I could see by her heightened color and the sudden 
flash of her black eye. 

•' Miss Etoile Percy, girls and boys," said Sir Robert, by way 
of general introduction. Then, leading her over to us, he pre- 
sented her to each separately, saying : 

*• Etoile, my dear, this is your cousin Mary, a regular, full- 
blooded Percy ; this is Kathleen Moore, a wild Irish girl, with 
nothing English about her except her pride ; this is Gypsy, the 
maddestj merriest little fairy that ever kept a household in con- 
fusion, yet she's the * flower of the flock,' after all ; this hand- 
some fellow is your cousin Randal, whose heart you must be 
careful not to steal, as I want him for Gypsy here." 

** Thank you for nothing, uncle," said I, tossing my head 
saucily. '* Gypsy wouldn't have him." 

Etoile lifted her cloudless blue eyes to his handsome face, with 
a smile that might capture a more invulnerable heart than his. 
As it was, I saw they were likely then and there to become very 
good friends. I glanced at Kathleen ; the bright color had faded 
from her face ; the old, disdainful look came back ; she was once 
more the Kathleen of other days. 

•* I say, Mary Percy !" called a dashiiig young officer, at this 
moment, "haven't you selected a queen yet for our Christmas 
feast ? Come, be quick — we are waiting." 

"Randal, you name somebody; we are all so pretty, I can 
make no selection," said Mary. Then she added, laughingly, to 
me : " Perhaps, he'll name me — who knows ?" 

He turned to Etoile, who still stood beside him, and, taking 
the crown of mistletoe and hollyberries from Mary, placed it 
gracefully on her golden head. Then kneeling on one knee, he 
raised her tiny hand to his lips, saying, gallantly : 

" Let me be the first to pay homage to our Christmas Queen 
to-night !" 

" Hurrah for our Christmas Queen !" was the universal sliout, 
as Etoile, blushing with pleasure, was led to the raised throne 
erected for the queen of the evening. 



74 



KATHLEEN. 



V' 



«f: 



11 

m 



" Your majesty must choose a consort," said Mary Percy, tak- 
ing her stand beside her as maid of honor. 

She blushed, and then laughed, and, raising her wand, touched 
Eandal on the shoulder. In an instant he was seated by her 
side, his stately head bent, whispering some gallant speech in 
her willing ear. 

The music now struck up, and every one arose to their feet for 
the dance. Partners were quickly selected, and Etoile and Ran- 
dal took their places at the head of the first quadrille. 

"Where's Kath, Gypsy?" said Mary Percy's brother, approach- 
ing me. 

I glanced round, and for the first time perceived that she was 
gone. Hurriedly turning away, I passed through the crowd, 
and ran up to her room. She sat at the open window, through 
which the cold winter air came blowing, lifting the damp braids 
of her black hair ofl:* her high, broad brow, and playing hide and 
see]>: amid her Christmas wreath. 

" Kathleen, dear Kathleen !" I said, throwing my arms around 
her neck, and kissing her cold, pale forehead. 

She pushed me away almost rudely. 

" What do you want here? she said, impatiently. 

" May I not stay with you, Kathleen ? I love you so much !" 
said I, pleadingly. 

" No, no, leave me. Go join in the dance, Gypsy." 

" I had rather stay with you, cousin." 

" Methinks you should find it plcasanter staying with that 
pretty baby Etoile," she said, with a curl of her proud lip. 

"I shall /lafe her, Kath !" I said fiercely ; " sl;o Jiad no business 
coming here to make you unhappy !" 

Tiie dreary look I had seen on entering came again over her 
face. 

"It must have come sooner or later," she said, steadily; "she 
only hastened it a little. It is well that I have awakened from 
the one dream of my life at once. You know my secret, 
Gypsy ?" 

" That you love Randal — yes," said I, gently. 

"And he will love this pretty doll. I see it all," said Kath- 
leen, calmly; "and I " 

She paused. 

"And you will be miserable all your life," I broke in, passion 



KATHLEEN. 



76 



ately. " I shall hate this shallow-brained little Parisian. Ran- 
dal, too, if he loves he^." 

She drew herself up and laughed scornfully. 

♦*And I shall be miserable. I like that. I think I see Kath- 
leen Moore breaking her heart for him, or any other man. No, 
no, Gypsy, wild Irish girls don't die so easily. Among my own 
dear native hills, I will soon forget England and Randal Percy, 
and be a free-hearted mountain lass* once more." 

Brave Kathleen ! She spoke boldly ; not once did her voice 
falter ; and yet the cold, stony look of her large black eyes told 
of the dreary aching of her heait. I could only fold my arms 
closer around her, and look the sympathy I could not speak. 

There came a tap at the door at this moment, and the next 
Mary Percy entered, exclaiming : 

" Come Katli — come Gypsy, this will never do. Tliere are a 
tliousand and one inquiries for you down stairs, and here you 
sit as silent and lonely as two imus. Come along !" 

And pushing her arm through ours, she drew us down stairs. 

•' Come, lady 1 lir," said her brother, approaching Kathleen, 
*' I believe I have the promise of this set?" 

*' And will Gypsy do me the honor?" said Randal Percy, ap- 
proaching me. 

" No," said I, shortly; " I don't want to dance." 

" Then I will not either," said he, gallantly, seatnig himself 
beside me. 

At this moment Etoile passed us, leaning on the arm of a 
young officer in a splendid uniform, and listening with a smile 
of evident pleasure, to the graceful notliings he poured in her ear. 
Randal looked after them with a jealous eye. 

"Did you ever see any one so lovely, Gypsy?" he said, en- 
thusiastically. 

" She's rather pretty," said I, with a disdainful shrug; " and 
if I mistake not, a most finished little coquette, as a certain 
cousin of mine will find out one of these days." 

-'She n, coquette! impossible, Gypsy I I never, in all my life, 
saw any one so artless, so unsophisticated, so perfectly free from 
coquetry," he exclaimed, indignantly. 

I laughed outright at this sudden burst of feeling. 

*' Perhaps so," said I. " Paris is a second Eden for training 
up girls artless, innocent, and all that. I suppose, however, I 



76 



KA.THLEEN. 



might as well try to 



made of creen 



cheese 



1 









I < 






convince you that the moon 

•ying to ensnare you. Men ha7'e been fools 
when in love, ever since the world began, and will to the end of 
it — you are no better tlian the rest. 

"And if I am," he said, coloring painfully, "you are hardly 
the one to lecture me for it — you, the greatest coquette that ever 
stepped — you that have made fools of a score of better men than 
I am before this." 

*' Perhaps this is the very reason that I can see so plainly 
Etoile Percy is trying to make a fool of you, now," said I, 
coolly. "But here comes Kathleen. Do you think her hand- 
some '?" 

" Handsome ! no, decidedly not," he said, quietly ; " she is- 
too dark, too proud, too supercilious — too much of the Percy in 
her, in a word. Too dark and fiery ; too much in your own 
style, Gypsy." 

" And not sufficiently in the style of that wingless angel 
Etoile ; that sweet, unsophisticated, little Parisian," I said, with 
a scornful laugh. " You are deeper in love than I thought, 
cousin Randal. What simpletons a pretty girl can make of the 
best of you lords of creation !" 

He flushed crimson, and rose angrily from liis seat ; at the 
same moment E'oile, radiant with smiles, came gliding up, and 
laying her hand on his arm, said, in the sweet, low voice in 
which she spoke, rendered still more musical by her strong for- 
eign accent : 

" Come, cousin Randal, we aro waiting for you ; they are go- 
ing to play blind-man's buff over there." Then turning to me, 
she said, softly : " I am very sorry to interrupt your conversa- 
tion, and take him from you, but we want him so particularly." 

She looked up into his face, half shyly, half fondly, like the 
artful cheat that she was. Randal's handsome face kindled 
with a look of deliglit, while I felt inclined to laugh outright. 

"Oh, take him and welcome !" said I, carelessly. " I don't 
think I'll break my heart during his absence." 

" Perhaps you will come with us," she said, gently, 

" No, thank you, I am engaged. I wish you a pleasant gamer 
Mind, Randal, and don't let her caU/i you," said I, moving away» 

" Au ret'oir" then she said, with her bright smile, and passing 
her arm through his, she kissed her hand to me, and disappeared. 



S( 

tl 
a 
I 

V 



KA.THLEEN. 



77 



of 



The great hall clock striking one, at last reminded the gay as- 
sembly that it was time to retire. As the company dispersed to 
their various chambers, Kathleen passed me, and whispered : 

" Come and share my room to-night, Gypsy ; I hate to be 
alone." 

I willingly complied, and ran with her up to her apartment. 
It was situated in such a manner as to command a view of the 
whole mansion. Kathleen seated herself by the window, while 
I undressed and went to bed. 

** Are you going to sit there all night, Kath ?" said I, my eyes 
closing drowsily as I spoke. 

"No, only a few minutes; I don't feel sleepy; never mind 
me," replied Kathleen, quietly. 

" Gypsy, Gypsy, wake up ! I want to show you something !" 

'* What on earth is it, Kath ?" said I, springing iip in alarm. 

" Look !" 

She drew me to the window, and pointed in the direction in 
which Etoile's chamber was situated. There was no light in the 
window, but the moonlight fell brilliantly over every object, 
rendering all around as clear as day. Under t)ie window, a tall, 
slight figure, which I instantly recognized as that of Randal 
Percy, paced to and fro, keeping his restless watch before the 
chamber of her he loved. I glanced at Kathleen ; she sat, or 
rather cowered on a seat near the window, her face covered with 
her hands, as still, as motionless as a marble figure. With a 
sigh, I turned again to look out. As 1 did so, I saw Etoile's 
window open hastily, and a rose fell through the moonlight to 
his feet. It was enough ; I drew the curtain, and turned to 
Kathleen ; she still sat in the same attitude, in a dreary, forlorn 
manner. 

" Dear Kathleen !" I said, softly. 

She took her hands down from before her face, and looking 
up, said, huskily : 

" You saw it all ; I knew it would be so. Oh, Gypsy, that I 
should have stooped to love one who cares not for me I" 

In all her grief, the old pride was predominant still. I knew 
not what to say, and remained silent. 

" I thank you for your sympathy, dear Gypsy, dearest cousin 
that I ever had ; and now that my dream, has ended, never speak 
of him to me again while you live." 



78 



KATHLEEN. 



She rose as she spoke, and tlirow herself on her couch ; but 
not to sleep. As I lay awake, thinking of the hopes of a life- 
time bli.^'htod in one night, 1 could hear her tossing restlessly on 
her bed, until the red hue of coining morn tinged the eastern 
sky. 

Time passed on ; and I learned that Kathleen and her father 
had started for a tour on the Continent. Of Randjil I could hear 
nothing, save that he had accompanied Etoile to her far-oif home 
in la belle France. 

One day a letter was brought to me in Kathleen's writijig. It 
was the first she had ever written me, and I tore it open eagerly. 
After a few prelininary remarks, she said : 

" I suppose you have heard, Gypsy, papa and I are in Paris. 
Such a life* of gayety as we have had ; every night at balls, 
soirees, reunions, operas, concerts, bal masques, and so on, ad in- 
finiium. I am rapidly becoming a most finished coquette ; even 
our pretty little cousin Etoile cannot surpass me in capturing 
hearts now. And apropos of Pjtoile, I see her nearly every day 
with Randal Percy following her everywhere like her shadow. 
Matters seem hardly as promising with them as on the night you 
and 1 witnessed a certain romantic little scene from my bedroom 
window. There is a young, white-mustached marquis here — a 
brainless fop he is — who seems very attentive to la belle cousine. 
Whether he or Mr. Percy will win tlie hand of the fickle little 
beauty is somewhat doubtful ; but allons, we shall see ! Next 
Christmas Eve we will meet again. Until then, dear Gypsy, 
adieu. 

** Kathleen." 

1 mused long over this letter ; it seemed so strange for Kath- 
leen Moore to write in such a strain. How she must have 
changed ! Was the old heart-ache all gone now ? No ; I felt sure 
that Kathleen was not one to forget her love of a life-time so 
easily. How I longed for Christmas to come, that I might see 
her once more ! 

Old Father Time moved steadily on ; month after month glided 
by, never to come again, bringing Christmas Eve — and all the 
Percys once more together in the old homestead. 

That Christmas Eve I remember distinctly. Everything in the 
old hall looked just the same as it had done twelve months be- 



KATHLEEN. 



79 



fore — tlie familiar faces were all there, and yet many a cliange 
had taken place. It had transformed gay Mary Percy into a 
bride ; pretty Etoilc into the wife of a marquis ; and I, myself, 
into a weary, sad girl. Randal Percy stood again beside mo, 
paler and thinner than when I had seen him last , for he had 
been jilted by the fair Etoile. Kathleen was there, too ; a su- 
perb woman, with the bewitching smile and languishing glance 
of a finished flirt, crowned with the wreath and carrying tlie wand 
of the Christmas Queen. Standing beside her, as her chosen 
consort, was Randal Percy. 

The evening was drawing to a close, when Kathleen passed me 
and hurriedly whispered : 

** If you wish to see a farce, Gypsy, steal into the parlor, hide 
yourself behind the curtains, and listen." 

Wondering what she could mean, I obeyed, and concealed 
myself behind the heavy curtains. Kathleen followed me and 
took a seat. Scarcely had she done so, when Randal Percy fol- 
lowed hastily, and took a seat by her side. 

*' Well, Mr. Percy," said Kathleen, quietly. ** you requested a 
private interview ; may I know what you wish ?" 

"Dear Kathleen, do not speak so coldly; you surely know the 
reason," he said, earnestly. 

" I am sorry to be so dull of comprehension. I have not the 
remotest idea," replied Kathleen. 

** Then, dearest cousin, in three words I can tell you — I love 
you, Kathleen !" 

** Do you, really? Almost as much, I suppose, as you loved 
Etoile, the other day. Eh, cousin Randal?" 

"Kathleen, will you never cease to think of my folly? I 
never loved her ; I only fancied so. I never loved but you, my 
peerless, my beautiful Kathleen !" he exclaimed, vehemently. 

"A very pretty speech, sir. Did you talk to Etoile this way?" 
she said, quietly. 

"Kathleen, you will drive me mad!" he exclaimed, passion- 
ately. " How shall I convince you that I love you only?" 

"Most certainly, not by walking up and down before my win- 
dow," was the sarcastic reply. " Do you remember, you did before 
Etoile's this very night, twelve months ago ? How hot you 
must have been when you went there to cool yourself ! Have 
you the rose Madame de Rochefort flung you that night ?" 



80 



KATHLEEN. 



He roue from his seat by her side, aud paced up and down the 
room with passionate vehemence. 

" Once for all, Kathleen," he said, suddenly stopping before 
her, " will you be my wife?" 

" I am sorry to be obliged to refuse you, my dear cousin, but 
there are two or three very good reasons that make it necessarj 
to refuse your trifling request." 

" For Heaven's sake name them !" he said. 

*' Well, then, the first is, that this day three weeks I am to be 
married to Sir John Montford ; the second " 

" What! Married ! Kathleen!" he gasped, convulsively. 

*' Yes, sir. But won't you hear the other reasons?" she in- 
quired, in the sweetest possible voice. 

"Oh, mock away!" he said, bitterly; "it well becomes you in 
your hour of triumpii ; but one thing you know — you loved me 
once. That time has passed. As Kathleen Moore I now bid you 
good-by — as Lady Montford you will never see me again." 

In a moment he was gone, and then parting the curtains I 
stepped out. Kathleen sat gazing from the door through which 
he had gone —her face very pale, but a proud look of triumph 
shining in her eyes. 

" Well, Gypsy," she said, with a mocking laugh, "you have 
heard all. Was it not a delightful little comedy? — almost as 
pretty as that you and I witnessed last Christmas Eve. And 
now my romance of life is gone forever; nothing remains for iwq 
but flirting, spending Sir John's wealth, tea and scandal. Well, 
I shall make the most of it. And now, the Christmas queen will 
be missed — so come." 

Three weeks after, Kathleen Moore became the wife of Sir 
John Montford ; and that same day Eundal Percy sailed for the 
United States; and since that time we have never heard of him. 
Madame and the Marquis de Rochefort dwell in their dear Paris, 
the gayest of the gay ; aud Lady Montford Hits from place to 
place, ever n ^tive and dissatisfied, as I suppose she will ever be, 
until her weary heart is still forever. I, too, no longer the wild 
"CJypsy" of other days, dwell far from my own loved English 
home. Many a Christmas Eve has come and gone, and many 
more will still come, but the old faces and forms will never meet 
again under the roof- tree of the Percys. 

THE END. 



■■Mi